Apr 11, 2007

California Metro Board Assumes Role in Emergency Preparedness for Delta Levees

Guarding against a disaster comparable to what New Orleans experienced during Hurricane Katrina, Metropolitan Water District’s Board of Directors today approved an emergency preparedness and response plan for the levee system that supports the fragile Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in California.

With water supplies for 25 million Californians and more than half of the state’s $1.6 trillion economy at stake, Metropolitan will look to integrate the strategies into an interim emergency delta operations plan being prepared by the state Department of Water Resources over the next two months.

Created in the late 1800s as a complex of levees, the delta developed as land was drained and reclaimed for agriculture at the confluence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers. Delta islands have over time subsided up to 30 feet because of farming and the deterioration of peat soils. Today, more than 1,100 miles of levees protect delta islands that are interlaced with major utilities, highways and railroads, and provide for the passage of fresh water delivered through the federal and state water systems.

Under a DWR scenario, a hypothetical earthquake measuring 6.5 on the Richter scale near the western delta could simultaneously lead to 50 levee breaches and the flooding of 20 delta islands, disrupting the state’s water delivery system that currently provides more than half the imported supplies available to Metropolitan.

The strategy approved by Metropolitan’s board would require the pre-positioning of materials and equipment to allow for timely levee repairs and closure of delta channels in the event of an earthquake or flooding.

Under the plan, an emergency pathway could be re-established through existing delta channels in about six months to deliver freshwater supplies to the state and federal water pumps. Depending on the scale of the emergency, Metropolitan estimates a state plan, based on MWD’s strategy, would cost about $200 million to execute.

In another action, Metropolitan’s board established rates and charges for fiscal year 2007-08 for all components of the district’s tiered rate structure, which breaks down the agency’s rates into separate commodity charges that reflect the wholesale costs to treat, deliver and develop supplies.

Included in the adopted plan is a $30-per-acre-foot increase in the district’s wholesale rate for the first tier of treated water deliveries to its 26 member public agencies, effective January 1, 2008. The adjustment reflects the cost of power resources, along with operating, maintenance and capital costs for treatment plant expansions and refurbishments.