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  Regular-General Government   #   43.    
Board of Supervisors County Administrator  
Meeting Date: 06/27/2017  
Brief Title:    Delta & Related Issues Ad Hoc Board Subcommittee Update
From: Patrick Blacklock, County Administrator
Staff Contact: Elisa Sabatini, Natural Resources Manager, County Administrator's Office, x5773

Receive an update on Delta flood protection, habitat, and water issues affecting Yolo County; approve proposed work plan for 2017/18; and reauthorize ad hoc Board Subcommittee for Delta and related issues. (No general fund impact) (Blacklock/Sabatini)
Recommended Action
  1. Receive an update on Delta flood protection, habitat, and related issues affecting Yolo County;
  2. Approve the proposed Delta program work plan for 2017/18; and
  3. Reauthorize an ad hoc Board Subcommittee for Delta and related issues.
Strategic Plan Goal(s)
Operational Excellence
Thriving Residents
Safe Communities
Sustainable Environment
Flourishing Agriculture
Reason for Recommended Action/Background
This Board letter provides an overview of the current status of many Delta flood, habitat, and water issues affecting Yolo County.  It covers four topics: California WaterFix (Section I) which includes the highly controversial "Delta tunnels" water conveyance project;  local flood protection issues and updates (Section II); ongoing work to restore habitat and otherwise improve conditions for aquatic species in the Yolo Bypass (Section III); and a Delta Program administrative update, which includes a summary of grants awarded, the proposed FY 17/18 work plan, and County Counsel's recommendation for a reauthorized ad hoc Delta Subcommittee (Section IV).  Each topic is addressed in summary fashion with an emphasis on recent developments and matters that may return to the Board for direction or action.

During the Board presentation of this agenda item, staff will review each topic briefly to highlight key areas of ongoing work—particularly on matters with the potential to significantly affect the County, such as expansion of the Yolo Bypass in Lower Elkhorn. A graphic is included as Attachment A to aid in identifying the areas mentioned in this Board letter.


As the Board will recall, the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) effort was effectively abandoned in mid-2015 in favor of two separate efforts:  the California WaterFix, which includes the conveyance facilities (“tunnels”) proposed as part of BDCP; and California EcoRestore, which seeks to implement a portion of the habitat restoration included within BDCP.   These efforts are now proceeding independently. 

With regard to the WaterFix, the past year (since the last Board update in September 2016) has been relatively quiet.  The lead state and federal agencies—the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the federal Bureau of Reclamation, respectively—released a final environmental review document in December 2016. Since that time no action has been taken by either agency to approve the WaterFix.  Rumors abound that an approval could happen at any time, but debate continues about how the project will be financed and whether it is economically viable.

Separately, since July 26, 2016, the State Water Resources Control Board has held administrative hearings on DWR’s application for permits necessary to implement the (as yet unapproved) WaterFix.  The hearings are extraordinary for their duration—Part 1 of the hearings is soon to conclude, with Part II expected to begin in Fall 2017.  The County has reserved the right to participate in Part II to present evidence on traffic, groundwater, and noise impacts, particularly in the Clarksburg area.

Staff will advise the Board of any significant WaterFix developments. Approval of the project is expected to trigger a multitude of lawsuits on CEQA and other grounds.  These lawsuits will be filed shortly after WaterFix approval due to the short 30-day limitation period applicable to claims based on an EIR prepared pursuant to CEQA.   


Local Flood Responsibility

County Maintained Levees

There are just over 215 miles of levees within Yolo County.  For the most part, those levees are maintained by independent reclamation districts or the state Department of Water Resources.  However the County, through its oversight of County Services Area 6 (AKA Snowball CSA), has operation and maintenance responsibilities for six miles of levee along the Sacramento River, from Knights Landing to the Fremont Weir. The County also has operation and maintenance responsibility for about one-third of a mile of levee on the south side of Cache Creek (Huff's Corner at County Road 18) just west of I-5 near the town of Yolo. Maps depicting the County's levees are provided as Attachment B

System-Wide Improvement Frameworks

Both of these levee systems have been deemed "unacceptable" or "deficient" due to deferred maintenance, needed repairs, and the age of the levee systems.  However, staff has been working with other local maintaining agency (LMA) partners on the development and approval of "System-Wide Improvement Frameworks" (SWIFs) for both systems.  SWIFs are intended to allow LMAs to transition their levee systems to US Army Corps of Engineer standards over time. 

The SWIF for each system will identify and prioritize deferred maintenance obligations, repair sites, and potential improvements.  The SWIFs need to be approved by both the Central Valley Flood Protection Board and the US Army Corps of Engineers.  The SWIF for the Knights Landing levee system is expected to be approved this summer (2017), see Attachment C, while the SWIF for the Cache Creek levee system is expected to be approved in the summer of 2018, see Attachment D. Approval of the SWIFs will allow both levee systems to remain temporarily eligible for P.L. 84-99 assistance (federal funding administered by the Army Corps) while we correct unacceptable operation and maintenance deficiencies as part of a broader, system-wide improvement to our levee systems.

Small Communities Flood Risk Reduction grants

In May 2017, the County was awarded $1.5M in Small Communities Flood Risk Reduction grants from the State Department of Water Resources (DWR).  The grants will support flood risk reduction studies for the communities of Clarksburg, Knights Landing, and Yolo.  Staff is in the contracting process with the state and hopes to kick off community outreach efforts this Fall. 

Regional Flood Efforts

Generally, County staff monitor regional flood protection issues through participation with other local agencies in a group referred to as the Regional Flood Management Plan Project Development Team (PDT).  The following discussion thus refers in places to ongoing efforts led by (or coordinated by County staff with) the PDT. 

DWR provides funding to convene the PDT to analyze and promote regional flood planning efforts.  Participating agencies include Yolo and Solano Counties, Reclamation District 2068, the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency (SAFCA), the West Sacramento Flood Control Agency (WSAFCA), and Solano County Water Agency.  The PDT has published various planning and policy documents, including a Regional Flood Management Plan (RFMP) and a comprehensive Lower Sacramento-Delta North Corridor Management Framework (CMF).  It also meets regularly to discuss flood protection issues of interest to the participating agencies, including all of the issues covered in this Section. 

Agricultural Floodplain Task Force (NFIP Relief)

California’s Capital Region is surrounded by agricultural lands that are protected by levee systems. Agriculture is one of the most appropriate land uses in the floodplain because it minimizes the population at risk, requires relatively few structures, uses the land productively to provide a much needed commodity, and provides wildlife benefits. In other words, a vibrant, sustainable agricultural economy is a key defense against risky and unwise floodplain development, however, the requirements of National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) are interfering with the sustainability of agriculture in deep floodplains.  Congress established the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) in 1968 with the passage of the National Flood Insurance Act. THe NFIP is administered and implemented by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

The NFIP has served the country well to reduce the risk of flooding through the implementation of essential floodplain management practices in exchange for federally backed flood insurance. The levee system in the Sacramento Valley is a Federal system administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). At the inception of the NFIP, the Sacramento Valley levees were largely assumed to meet FEMA’s base flood requirements based on representations by USACE. In 2001, FEMA began the NFIP Map Modernization Program to manage flood risk information digitally. As part of this process, most levees protecting rural communities in the Sacramento Valley were found to not meet FEMA’s current engineering criteria for levees and the lands behind them were mapped into the floodplain. It is important that NFIP regulations, which were created with urbanization of the floodplain in mind, do not have the unintended consequence of injuring California’s agricultural economy. However, as currently implemented, NFIP regulations have the potential to cause displacement of vibrant agricultural communities and inhibit a competitive agricultural industry. This will have long-term implications for the sustainability of productive agriculture within FEMA regulated floodplains. Displacement of agriculture has the potential to create a ‘land-use vacuum’ that could lead to increased urbanization of floodplains.

As FEMA updates Flood Insurance Rate Maps to show new Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHA) behind previously accredited levees throughout many of the Sacramento Valley’s agricultural areas, sustainability of Sacramento Valley agriculture has become a major concern. There are two primary impacts when an agricultural area is mapped into an SFHA: (1) land use requirements for elevating or floodproofing new and substantially improved (which includes substantially damaged) structures to at, or above, the Base Flood Elevation (BFE), and (2) a requirement to purchase a flood insurance policy through the NFIP for each structure with a federally backed mortgage.

The 2012 Central Valley Flood Protection Plan states: “…to sustain agricultural communities and support the natural and beneficial functions of floodplains, FEMA should consider establishing a flood zone for agriculturally-based communities to allow replacement of reinvestment development in the floodplain for existing structures. The State will work with FEMA to consider a special, lower rate structure that reflects actual flood risks for agricultural buildings in rural-agricultural areas located in Special Flood Hazard Areas.”

In 2014, FEMA officials and the Governmental Accountability Office encouraged exploration of ideas to address sustainability of modern agriculture in deep floodplains. The Agricultural Floodplain Ordinance Task Force (Task Force) was formed in late 2015, using Regional Flood Management Plan grant funding from the California Department of Water Resources (DWR), to explore ideas that could be implemented administratively by FEMA without changing law or regulation, for improving sustainability of agriculture in leveed SFHAs. The Task Force is comprised of officials from FEMA, DWR, the Central Valley Flood Protection Board, reclamation districts, levee districts, flood control agencies, counties, engineers, farmers, and non-governmental organizations (including various farm bureaus, the Association of State Flood Plain Managers (ASFPM), the National Association of Flood and Stormwater Management Agencies, and American Rivers). County staff participated in the Task Force at large and served on the Executive Committee of the Task Force. 

The Task Force published a technical memorandum in December 2016 containing nine recommendations to sustain agriculture in the Sacramento Valley. The technical memo can be found at

This technical memorandum presents recommendations developed by the Task Force for modifying FEMA’s rules and practices under the NFIP to improve sustainability of agriculture in leveed SFHAs. The recommendations address how rules and practices could be modified to: (1) reduce or remove elevation and floodproofing requirements for new and substantially improved agricultural structures, and (2) reduce the cost of flood insurance for agricultural structures with a federally backed mortgage to a more appropriate portion of the financial risk in the NFIP.

State and Federal Planning Processes and Projects

Staff will provide an oral update on the various regional, state, and federal planning processes and associated projects that impact the Yolo Bypass, Sacramento River, and/or Delta, including the following: 
  • 2017 Central Valley Flood Protection Plan Update (Central Valley Flood Protection Board)
  • Yolo HCP/NCCP and Regional Conservation Investment Strategy (Yolo Habitat Conservancy JPA)
  • Sacramento River General Reevaluation Report (US Army Corps of Engineers)
  • Delta Levee Investment Strategy (Delta Stewardship Council)
  • Lower Elkhorn Setback Levee and Bryte Landfill Relocation (State Department of Water Resources)
Staff has provided a timeline depicting these processes and projects as Attachment E to this staff report. 


In September 2012, the Bureau of Reclamation and DWR released the “Yolo Bypass Salmonid Habitat Restoration and Fish Passage Implementation Plan” to comply with environmental mitigation measures outlined in the National Marine Fisheries Service’ Biological Opinion for continued operation of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project. (Originally constructed in the 1930s and 1960s, respectively, these two projects are the primary systems used to redistribute water from northern California to cities and farms in southern California.) The environmental mitigation measures described in the Implementation Plan, known as Reasonable and Prudent Alternative Actions (RPA) I.6.1 and I.7, are as follows: 
  • RPA Action I.6.1: Restoration of Floodplain Rearing Habitat, through the increase of seasonal inundation within the lower Sacramento River basin; and
  •  RPA Action I.7: Reduce Migratory Delays and Loss of Salmon, Steelhead, and Sturgeon, through the modification of Fremont Weir and other structures of the Yolo Bypass.
 RPA I.6.1 has potentially the most significant impacts on Yolo Bypass land uses of the two RPAs. This RPA requires the Bureau to increase access and acreage for juvenile salmonids onto seasonally inundated aquatic habitat, generally from late November through April, except when hydrologic conditions do not allow.
Since 2012, the Bureau and DWR have been working to develop alternatives for implementation of the two RPAs, culminating in the upcoming release of a Public Review Draft EIS/EIR in October 2017. The Bureau and the Department plan to finalize the EIS/EIR in 2018 and construct the project in 2022. See Attachment F for more detail about the proposed process and milestones.
During this time period, Yolo County has worked with partners to complete analyses of the potential impacts of the proposed project to implement the RPAs, including a waterfowl impacts analysis (2012) and an agricultural impacts analysis (2013). The County also completed review of two hydrodynamic models used at various stages of the process, including a review of MIKE-21 (2012) and TUFLOW (2016). Finally, Yolo County participated in various stakeholder processes, including the Fisheries Engineering Technical Team, the Bureau’s value planning process, and the workgroup to develop the Delta Stewardship Council’s review of models used to develop the EIS/EIR.
Yolo County also completed two studies to identify potential projects that would benefit existing land uses in the Yolo Bypass, including wetlands and agriculture. These studies are the Yolo Bypass Drainage and Water Infrastructure Study (2014) and the Yolo County Agricultural Economic Development Fund (2014). Yolo County and its partners have secured over $2.3 million in grants for implementation of projects in the Yolo Bypass Drainage and Water Infrastructure Study and are working with Ducks Unlimited to apply for an additional $4 million in 2017.
Yolo County continues to have the following concerns about the proposed project:  1) mitigation for agricultural and economic impacts; 2) extent of wetlands impacts and mitigation for impacts; and 3) governance of future operations. Yolo County expects to address these concerns through various strategies, including in public comments on the Public Review Draft EIS/EIR.


To better align with the County's Strategic Plan and its transition towards results based accountability, staff has prepared a draft FY17/18 work plan for the Delta and Related Issues program for the Board's consideration.  The work plan (Attachment G) takes into consideration several factors; 1) the timeline of various local, regional, state, and federal planning processes and projects, 2) staffing and fiscal resources, and 3) prioritization of potential detrimental impacts to the County's agricultural, economic, and water resources.  

Staff's recommendation is that most effort over the next year be directed to the following matters: 
  • Yolo Bypass widening
  • Levee improvements
  • Advancement of agricultural sustainability within state and federal processes
  • Implementation of Small Communities Flood Risk Reduction grants
  • Implementation of the Biological Opinions
  • California WaterFix
Program Budget FY 17/18 (Adopted)
Flood/Delta/Habitat Costs & Distribution 
Staff Support $124,235   How costs are distributed  
County Counsel $40,000   General Fund Expense $355,735
GSA membership $20,000  
TMDL Fees $1,500   Grant Funding:  
DCC Coordinator $35,000   River Parkways $200,000
Consultants $160,000   Westside Tributaries $120,000
Grant Payments:     Delta Conservancy $20,000
River Parkway $200,000   Windward Funds $25,000
Westside Tributaries $120,000   Ag Sustainability $100,000
Delta Conservancy $20,000   Total Revenue $820,735
Ag Sustainability $100,000      
Total Expenditures $820,735      
The table above depicts the FY 17/18 budget, as adopted in June 2017. However, staff will be requesting budget augmentations over the next few months to account for recently awarded grants, and hopefully, several grants that are still pending approval. 
The table below describes awarded grants for the Delta and Related Issues program.  It important to note that many grants span multiple fiscal years. 
Grant Agency Project $ Amount Term
River Parkways CNRA Capay Open Space Park $499,000 2016 -2020
Prop 1 CDFW Westside Tributaries Flow Monitoring $331,148 6/30/2019
Prop 1 Delta Conservancy Cache Slough Complex Planning $25,000 6/30/2017
Windward Fund Windward Fund Yolo Regional Conservation Investment Strategy $25,000 12/31/2017
Drought Emergency USDA Knights Landing Well Replacement $500,000 7/1/2018
Small Communities Flood grant DWR Knights Landing Flood $500,000 TBD
Small Communities Flood grant DWR Clarksburg Flood $500,000 TBD
Small Communities Flood grant DWR Town of Yolo Flood $500,000 TBD
SAFCA SAFCA Ag Sustainability $130,000 TBD
    Total Awarded $3,010,148  

Delta and Related Issues Subcommittee Review and Recommendation

As the Board is aware, an ad hoc subcommittee on Delta issues has existed since about 2010.  Its membership and purpose have varied over time, and the committee scope needs to be updated.  Accordingly, Attachment H describes a proposed scope for a reauthorized ad hoc subcommittee that assigns it authority within certain discrete issue areas, all of which have a nexus to project and program activities occurring within the next 12-18 months.  This approach should ensure that the ad hoc subcommittee has sufficient flexibility to handle a range of evolving issues in a manner that complies with Brown Act requirements applicable to such subcommittees.

Recommended Action

Staff recommends that the Board: 
  1. Receive an update on Delta flood protection, habitat, and related issues affecting Yolo County;
  2. Approve the proposed Delta program work plan for FY 17/18; and
  3. Reauthorize an ad hoc Board Subcommittee for Delta and related issues, consistent with the work plan described in Attachment G and draft memo attached as Attachment H.
Collaborations (including Board advisory groups and external partner agencies)
Staff collaborations on the various Delta program projects and processes includes, but is not limited to: various County departments such as Public Works, Planning, County Counsel, Environmental Health, Agricultural Commissioner, Board of Supervisors staff, Assessors office, etc. Outside agency collaboration includes numerous state and federal agencies, the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency, West Sacramento Flood Control Agency, Solano County, Solano County Water Agency, the Delta Counties Coalition, numerous reclamation and special districts, affected landowners and business operations, and the general public.

Fiscal Information
Fiscal impact (see budgetary detail below)
Fiscal Impact of this Expenditure
Total cost of recommended action $820,735
Amount budgeted for expenditure $820,735
Additional expenditure authority needed $0
On-going commitment (annual cost)
Source of Funds for this Expenditure
General Fund $355,735
Grants $465,000
Further explanation as needed
The approved budget for FY 17/18 will implement the work plan, should the Board approve the recommended work plan. The budget for the Delta and Related Issues program is $820,735 ($355,735 general fund and $465,000 in grants). 
Att. A. Regional Map
Att. B. Yolo County Levees
Att. C. Knights Landing SWIF
Att. D. Cache Creek SWIF
Att. E. Planning and Projects
Att. F. Restoration Project Timeframe
Att. G. FY17/18 Work Plan
Att. H. Ad Hoc Subcommittee Form
Att. I. Presentation

Form Review
Inbox Reviewed By Date
Elisa Sabatini (Originator) Elisa Sabatini 06/20/2017 03:27 PM
Phil Pogledich Phil Pogledich 06/21/2017 04:46 PM
Elisa Sabatini (Originator) Elisa Sabatini 06/21/2017 10:08 PM
Phil Pogledich Phil Pogledich 06/22/2017 12:52 PM
Jill Cook Jill Cook 06/22/2017 01:19 PM
Elisa Sabatini (Originator) Elisa Sabatini 06/22/2017 02:53 PM
Form Started By: Elisa Sabatini Started On: 05/30/2017 11:19 AM
Final Approval Date: 06/22/2017
Level double AA conformance,
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