Corps Declares 17 Central Valley Levee Systems Ineligible for Federal Maintenance Funding

Seventeen levee systems in the Central Valley, including levees protecting most of Sacramento, are no longer eligible for federal rehabilitation assistance, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced in a letter this week.

The Corps informed the California Central Valley Flood Protection Board of the change in program status in a letter Aug. 22. The board is responsible for the maintenance of the affected levees. According to a statement from the Corps, the change is not the result of new inspections, and does not reflect new findings about the condition of the levees. It does, however, follow the expiration in June of a temporary agreement between the Corps and the state of California that extended eligibility for deficient levees.

According to the Corps, all 17 levee systems received unacceptable maintenance ratings in their most recent Corps inspections - due primarily to widespread encroachments, erosion and bank caving - but retained eligibility for rehabilitation assistance under the agreement, called the California Central Valley Flood System Improvement Framework. While non-compliant vegetation was also found to be an unacceptable deficiency, it did not lead to an overall unacceptable system rating for any of the 17 systems, the Corps said.

A complete list of those systems is published on the Sacramento District’s levee safety website. A fact sheet on the issue can be found here.

The Corps sets national standards for levee safety, providing rehabilitation assistance to levee maintaining agencies that maintain active status in the levee Rehabilitation and Inspection Program and offering flood fighting assistance in cases of emergency.

Since 2008, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District has inspected 32 of the 118 levee systems sponsored by the board. The framework, which provided interim guidance for levee maintenance while the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan was developed, temporarily afforded continued funding eligibility for levee systems sponsored by the board with five categories of deficiencies: channel capacity, seepage, erosion, encroachments and vegetation. Though the Corps acknowledges the significant achievement of the plan, the plan does not adequately describe how the board intends to comply with Corps levee standards or serve as a replacement of the framework, and does not support continued eligibility for unacceptable systems. With its adoption, the framework expired.