House Subcommittee Holds Field Hearing on Delta Region Disaster Preparedness

The Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management, chaired by Rep. Jeff Denham (R-19), held a field hearing in Stockton Aug. 16 to discuss planning and preparing for hazards and disasters in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

The subcommittee has jurisdiction over the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and federal disaster preparedness and response programs.  The hearing’s focus was on the ongoing concerns of threats in the region and efforts at the federal, state and local level in ensuring appropriate disaster planning and preparedness. 

Denham opened the hearing by saying, “This Congress, I authored H.R. 2903, the FEMA Reauthorization Act which was voted out of committee in March.  That bill would not only reauthorize FEMA and key emergency management programs such as the Urban Search and Rescue System, but would help streamline and reduce costs to disaster assistance programs, ensuring communities can recover more quickly following a disaster. Today, we are here in Stockton, California to specifically examine planning and preparedness in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta region. It is important to ensure that all levels of government are working together to plan for and prepare for any hazards and disasters.”

Rep. John Garamendi (D-10) was the first panelist at the hearing; he stated, “In January 2012, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Coordination Task Force culminated its work with the release of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Multi-Hazard Coordinated Task Force Report, in which the Task Force lays out a set of specific recommendations for how to best prepare and respond to a flood emergency. As a Member of Congress representing this region, I am committed to working with Cal EMA, the Delta Counties, and my colleagues in Congress to find federal funding streams necessary so that the Task Force recommendations can be realized.”

Also testifying at the hearing were Robert J. Fenton, Jr., assistant administrator for response, Office of Response and Recovery, Federal Emergency Management Agency; Brendan Murphy, assistant secretary, California Emergency Management Agency; Ronald E. Baldwin, former director of emergency operations, San Joaquin County; Timothy Alan Simon, commissioner, California Public Utilities Commission; and Alexander Coate, general manager, East Bay Municipal Utility District.

“EBMUD is a regional water and wastewater agency located in the East San Francisco Bay Area. We know from experience that the threat of future failures in the Delta is real," Coate said. "In addition to the three failures of levees that protect our aqueducts, levees in the Delta have been breached approximately 160 times over the last century. The threat of more levee failures, potentially on a system-wide scale similar to the Katrina-New Orleans event, is increasing over time due to island subsidence, sea level rise, intensified flood events, and seismic faults in and near the Delta. Scientists estimate a two-in-three chance of a major quake in the Delta during the next 50 years, potentially leading to permanent changes in the landscape of the Delta.”

Click here for more information on the hearing and to read testimony.