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Congressman Jerry McNerney

Representing the 9th District of California

Rep. McNerney Introduces Legislation to Improve Local Emergency Flood Response

Mar 2, 2017
Press Release
Bill Provides Resources for Flood Disasters & Levee Failure Protection and Prevention

Washington, DC – As Californians prepare for historic rain and snowpack levels and deal with the consequences of events at the Oroville Dam and devastating flooding throughout the state, Rep. Jerry McNerney (CA-09) introduced H.R. 1233, the Emergency Flood Response Act, to empower local authorities in responding to flood disasters and preventing levee failures. Current Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) regulations put constraints on a local agency’s ability to commit already scarce resources by limiting emergency assistance and work eligible for disaster assistance and reimbursement.

“Recent storms have brought severe and unpredictable weather across California, causing tremendous stress to the state’s levee system, and have contributed to the spillway issue at Oroville Dam. In an emergency situation, local authorities need to be able to react quickly. They must be prepared to respond to a disaster scenario, should a levee break or become overwhelmed. Preparation is critical in flood-prone regions, regardless of wet or dry years,” said Rep. McNerney. “With the Emergency Flood Response Act, I want to make sure the local agencies on the ground, specifically those that best know their flood region, have the tools necessary to prepare, plan, and respond effectively and quickly to limit potential damage and harm that can be caused by flooding and damaged levees.”

There are over 13,000 miles of levees across California. The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta region includes more than 1,000 square miles of levee infrastructure, some of which is considered aging and susceptible to structural integrity problems and failure.

Rep. McNerney’s legislation directs the Federal Emergency Response Agency (FEMA) to establish an emergency flood activity pilot program to assist flood response efforts in response to a levee failure or potential levee failure, and for other purposes.

Last week, Congressman McNerney visited orchards and vineyards in Thornton, CA that were heavily impacted by flooding due to breaks in nearby levees. Rep. McNerney saw firsthand the damage to crops and is please to introduce H.R. 1233, which provides resources for levee failure protection and prevention.

The Emergency Flood Response Act intends to help local entities establish and maintain a flood emergency fund through a FEMA competitive grants pilot program. The funds would be used for emergency flood activities and would also ensure a unified command system for response in flood disaster scenarios. These funds would be applied to emergency flood activities that include: pre-planning and emergency action on levee failure prevention; closing levee breaks; making relief cuts and dewatering flooded areas; and limiting the extent, depth, and duration of flood waters in the event of a levee failure.

A 2012 report from the American Society of Civil Engineers gave California’s levee system a “D” grade. According to the Army Corps of Engineers’ National Levees Database, nearly half of the 47 levee systems in Sacramento and San Joaquin Counties were classified as “unacceptable” based on their prior periodic inspection.

The Emergency Flood Response Act is supported by San Joaquin County.

Rep. Garamendi, who represents the Oroville Dam, is an original sponsor of the legislation.

H.R. 1233 was referred to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

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Rep. Jerry McNerney proudly serves the constituents of California’s 9th Congressional District that includes portions of San Joaquin, Contra Costa, and Sacramento Counties. For more information on Rep. McNerney’s work, follow him on Facebook and on Twitter @RepMcNerney.