The Sacramento skyline can be seen in the background behind a partially flooded Yolo Bypass in January 2010. The Central Valley Flood Protection Board is considering a plan to significantly widen the Fremont Weir in northern Yolo County, allowing flooding that could put local agriculture in jeopardy, Yolo officials say. Sue Cockrell/Enterprise file photo

Agriculture + Environment

Plan to expand Yolo Bypass draws opposition

By From page A1 | February 16, 2012

A plan to improve flood protection in the Central Valley by widening the Fremont Weir and expanding the Yolo Bypass has drawn opposition from Yolo County supervisors, who also expressed frustration over not being consulted about the proposal.

Community members will have an opportunity to be heard on the matter next week when the Central Valley Flood Protection Board takes public comment on the plan at a meeting in Sacramento.

The flood protection board last month released a draft Central Valley Flood Protection Plan which, among other things, proposes widening the Fremont Weir by one mile, resulting in the release of an additional 40,000 cubic feet per second of flood water into the Yolo Bypass, according to Yolo County Supervisor Jim Provenza of Davis.

That release, in turn, “could place Yolo County communities, agriculture and our local economy in jeopardy,” Provenza said. “We also fear that there could be an increased risk of local flooding and a threat to continued viability of the Vic Fazio Wildlife Area.”

Provenza and Supervisor Matt Rexroad of Woodland also sharply criticized the flood board for what they say was a lack of input at the local level in the development of the plan.

“I was shocked by the complete lack of outreach to the board and my constituents whose homes and livelihoods are threatened by this proposal,” Rexroad said last week.

According to a letter Provenza sent to the flood protection board, the widening of the Fremont Weir was never discussed publicly and county officials were never contacted by the state Department of Water Resources about the intent to include the proposal in the draft flood plan.

“The (Board of Supervisors) was surprised and disappointed by the utter lack of public outreach in Yolo County regarding a project of this magnitude,” Provenza said.

He added that even though the plan proposes just to study the widening of the weir, “it is our experience that when a plan is developed in secret without local participation, mistakes are made that are difficult to correct as the plan gains momentum.”

The Fremont Weir — one of six weirs in the Sacramento River Flood Control Project — is a lowered section of the levee that allows water to flow out of the river and into the bypass once the river level reaches a certain height.

Located eight miles northeast of Woodland, the Fremont Weir is two miles long and marks the beginning of the Yolo Bypass. The bypass, in turn, carries 80 percent of the river system’s floodwaters through Yolo and Solano counties until it connects to the Sacramento River a few miles upstream of Rio Vista.

All land within the bypass, both public and private, is subject to a flood easement that allows the state to flood the land for public safety and ecological benefit.

The flooding that occurs affects both agriculture and other land use and any expansion of the flood zone would have consequences for Yolo County.

The proposed bypass expansion, County Administrator Patrick Blacklock said in comments to the flood board, “would likely represent the largest infrastructure project in the county’s history.”

“The county’s agricultural economy would be directly affected through the loss of highly productive agricultural land in order to accommodate the new levee setbacks and flood inundation area,” Blacklock said.

Given Yolo County’s efforts to direct its own growth outside the flood plain, Provenza said, “Our county should not be made to bear the cost of providing 200-year flood protection to other counties who have chosen to build homes and entire communities in the areas most likely to flood.”

In releasing the draft plan last month, the Central Valley Flood Protection Board began a five-month review process, with adoption scheduled for June. The first public hearing takes place Friday, Feb. 24, at the Resources Building, 1416 Ninth St. in Sacramento, with public comment beginning at 1 p.m. Future meetings will take place in March and April.

To read the draft flood protection plan, visit http://www.water.ca.gov/cvfmp/documents.cfm.

Written comments also can be made, with instructions for doing so available at  http://cvfpb.ca.gov/CVFPP/index.cfm.

— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at [email protected] or (530) 747-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy

Anne Ternus-Bellamy

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