As part of his revised state budget proposal announced on Friday, Governor Gavin Newsom stated than an additional $290 million would go to flood control projects in the state, for a total of $492 million added since January.
According to Newsom’s original 2023-2024 budget proposal in January, funding for flood control and similar measures was to have been significantly reduced, as California was seemingly in the middle of a megadrought and those funds would not be needed. However, record rain and snowfall throughout the state in the first three months of 2023 quickly quashed those plans, with more money actually being poured into those programs because of the resulting floods and poor winter conditions.
With flood threats and damages increasing, and some long disappeared lakes in the state returning as a result of the high volume of rain and snow, more money was needed to help mitigate flooding and the resulting damage. On Friday, as part of the major deficit jump from $22.5 billion to $31.5 billion, Newsom proposed many new flood proposals, including:
- $125 million to support preparedness, response and recovery related to the 2023 storms – funding shifted from drought contingency to flood contingency to address the weather whiplash California is facing;
- $75 million to support local flood control projects;
- $25 million to expand the current California Small Agricultural Business Drought Relief Grant Program to provide direct assistance to eligible agriculture-related businesses that have been affected by the recent storms;
- $25 million for potential additional disaster relief and response costs in this fiscal year to address immediate impacts;
- $40 million for the San Joaquin Floodplain restoration;
All of that would be in addition to over $200 million in other flood proposals from earlier this year, as well as Newsom also announcing on Friday the spending of $17 million for raising the Corcoran levee by four feet to help protect the city of Corcoran from the growing Tulare Lake.
More proposed funding for flood control
“California is facing unprecedented weather whiplash – we just experienced the driest three years on record, and now we’re dealing with historic flooding,” Governor Newsom said on Friday. “Our investments must match this reality of climate-driven extremes. We’re committing even more resources to support communities up and down the state as they continue responding to the impacts of this year’s storms.”
“Raising the Corcoran levee provides greater certainty that we won’t need to evacuate critical facilities and will ensure public safety. However, the state and federal government cannot continue stepping in to raise this levee. I look forward to a conversation on what the local agency is going to do differently so that we don’t find ourselves in this situation again.”
He also stressed that the Corcoran project was particularly urgent, as the lake continues to rise, putting Corcoran, a city with prisons, major power pants, and hospitals, in danger. While the rest are budget proposals, the Corcoran funding will be immediate, with funds coming straight from the California Disaster Assistance Act, with partial recoupment from FEMA.
“This is a huge relief,” noted City Manager Greg Gatzka in a statement on Thursday. “Knowing that we can fully fund this Corcoran levee reinforcement so that we can protect the whole entire community and two state prisons, from not only the existing flooding that’s already out there — which is about 360,000 acre-feet of water — but the oncoming water that we know is coming from this massive snowmelt. We’re pretty confident they’re going to finish that before we get too much significant snowmelt coming and adding to Tulare Lake basin.”
Experts told the Globe on Friday that funding against floods would be needed sooner rather than later, as meltwater from the mountains continues to flow down in force, and more multi-months rain bomb events are possible to occur yet again during the winter in the future.
“It’s not great that we need this funding during a time of a budget crisis, but that’s the score,” San Diego-area water management advisor William Pataki told the Globe Friday. “We need flood prevention programs as well as programs to help with increased water collection and better infrastructure to transfer water. The truth is that we are going to see times of heavy rain and times of drought in the future, and we need to be prepared for both contingencies now. It’s either pay now or pay even more dearly in the future. This way were are prepared for any outcome, with more water being collected and stored during wetter times for use during dry spells.”
Newsom and the state Legislature are to decide on a final 2023-2024 budget by June 15th, with implementation on July 1st.
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