RIVERSIDE, Calif. – The Corps of Engineers’ Los Angeles District and the California Department of Water Resources hosted an open forum meeting to seek input on a groundbreaking flood study April 18, at the Riverside County Flood Control and Water Conservation District.
A handful of representatives from local, county, and state flood control agencies attended the fifth of nine meetings intended to educate members of the community on the draft report, entitled California’s Flood Future.
“The (report) was rolled out on April 3 and we have a public comment period running through May 20, so as part of that, we’re doing these nine regional meetings, sending out media alerts, and finding anyone that wants to participate,” said Kim Gavigan, the chief of the water resources planning section for the Los Angeles District’s Arizona Area Office. “The intent is to present the findings of the (report) at the local level, including the local flood management agencies, stakeholders, interested parties, and even property owners.”
The comprehensive report, scheduled to be completed this summer, details the state’s exposure to flood risk and the geographical conditions that make different areas more likely to experience certain types of floods. The report is unique in that it marks the first time the Corps—in this case, represented by four different districts--has assisted in an extensive study of this magnitude and type.
“This is the first state-wide effort—the Corps has partnered with DWR for similar studies in the past, but historically, DWR has been a ghost partner providing funding to the agencies we have worked with to conduct studies and projects,” Gavigan said. “This is the first collaborative effort between DWR and the entire South Pacific Division. That’s why it’s unique because it’s unprecedented.”
Hosting meetings in order to solicit comment from local agencies is an important step in completing the report. The outreach effort will not only help DWR and the Corps gather vital information on local and regional concerns, but will help educate the flood management community on the report and its broader intent—to increase awareness of the state’s flood risks and to encourage proactivity amongst the various agencies designated to respond to local flood events.
“In my mind, it’s all about educating the public,” Gavigan said. “It’s meant also to be a tool to help flood management agencies to make decisions and get collaboration and communication. Typically that collaboration and communication only happens post-flood event. This is an active effort to get that collaboration to occur in anticipation of the next flood.”
Sonia Brown, an emergency service coordinator with the California Emergency Management Agency, was among the attendees of the meeting. Working in emergency management, Brown is familiar with agencies’ needs to plan for the worst and said meetings like this one could help bring the issue of flood risk to the forefront.
“For our earthquake program, when we try to reach out to people (we find that ) the best time to reach out to them is when an earthquake event has already happened,” Brown said. “People think ‘out of sight, out of mind’ and ‘it’s never going to happen to me’ or ‘we haven’t had a big one for a while.’ Even people who know better sometimes think if we haven’t had a flood in a while that (preparing for a flood) is not as important as other things.”
For more information, to comment online, or to download the draft report, visit www.water.ca.gov/SFMP.