Tuesday, August 25, 2015

10 Years After Katrina, Will Sacramento be the Next New Orleans?

Sacramento (Credit: Shutterstock/Dylan Petrohilos) Click to Enlarge.
A 2011 New York Times Magazine story sounded the alarm:  “Scientists consider Sacramento — which sits at the confluence of the Sacramento and American Rivers and near the Delta — the most flood-prone city in the nation.”  The article went on to note that experts fear an earthquake or violent Pacific superstorm could destroy the city’s levees and spur a megaflood that could wreak untold damage on California’s capital region.
In many ways, Katrina proved to be a wake-up call but much of the subsequent investment in the nation’s inadequate levee system has been driven by politics rather than science, has not received the funding required, and has been insufficiently forward-looking.  And by relying on data and standards that do not reflect climate change and the rise of stronger storms that has come with it, things may be even worse than assumed.
Tyler Stalker, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District, agreed that the Sacramento area is uniquely at risk.  “Two million people live here” at the “confluence of two major river systems,” he said.  “Interstate 5 runs through the heart of Sacramento. Interstates 80 and 50 come right through Sacramento.  These are major transportation corridors.  And it’s the capital,” he added, with “a lot of water flowing through here, relying on a levee system that is quickly aging.”

To illustrate the challenge, Stalker pointed to the bathtub-like Natomas area to the north of the city of Sacramento, and the 41-mile levee system that surrounds it.  “You can’t fix just one segment and expect that to work,” he explained.  “If it fails anywhere, ultimately [a flood] will get in there and fill up that whole area, because of the way it’s composed.”  Things need to be addressed on a system-wide basis, each is “only as good as its weakest link.

Read more at 10 Years After Katrina, Will Sacramento be the Next New Orleans?

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