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Experts Rebut Governor Brown: Levees Fix IS “Feasible”
by Dan Bacher
Thursday Sep 13th, 2012 9:17 AM
Consulting Engineer Robert Pyke, an expert on Delta levees and the risk posed by earthquakes or other events, said further, “It is a ‘whopper’ to pretend that Delta levees are in imminent danger of collapse from earthquakes or other events. While there is some risk, it is relatively low. It is time to stop relying on the earthquake bogey to justify building the Peripheral Tunnels."
Governor’s Advisers are Biased Toward Peripheral Tunnels

Economists, Engineers Agree Fat Levees are Cheaper, Sound

SACRAMENTO –Experts today rebutted Governor Brown’s recent statement that restoring Delta levees, as an alternative to constructing Peripheral Tunnels, is not “feasible.”

“Restore the Delta and engineering and economic experts strongly disagree with Governor Brown’s advisers, who appear to be misinforming him about the alternatives to building the Peripheral Tunnels,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta. “Governor Brown’s claim that fixing Delta levees is not feasible indicates how deeply misinformed he is by leaders at the California Resources Agency."

"The Economic Sustainability Plan published by the Delta Protection Commission illustrates that such levee repairs are necessary - even if the twin Peripheral Tunnels were built - in order to protect the 4 million people who live behind Delta levees," said Barrigan-Parrilla. "Unfortunately, this assertion also fits hand-in-hand with the Department of Water Resources’ repeated attempts to suppress research results showing that improving Delta levees is the most cost effective way to protect the Delta for the future.”

Consulting Engineer Robert Pyke, an expert on Delta levees and the risk posed by earthquakes or other events, said further, “It is a ‘whopper’ to pretend that Delta levees are in imminent danger of collapse from earthquakes or other events. While there is some risk, it is relatively low. It is time to stop relying on the earthquake bogey to justify building the Peripheral Tunnels. The director of the U.S. Geological Service recently apologized for inflammatory comments about earthquake risk, and it is time for Dept. of Water Resources officials to follow suit.”

Dr. Pyke, who has a Ph.D. in geotechnical and earthquake engineering from the University of California, has practiced in these fields for forty years, and is a co-author of the Delta Protection Commission’s Economic Sustainability Plan.

“The Delta levees can be further improved, and should be further improved, because a robust Delta levee system serves multiple goals, including improving water supply reliability,” said Dr. Pyke. “The BDCP does little to nothing to restore a more natural flow regime through the Delta, and it makes no provision for dealing with a six-year drought. What is most puzzling is that the governor continues to rely exclusively on the advice of Deputy Resources Secretary Jerry Meral, who shot the Governor in the foot by giving him bad advice on the old Peripheral Canal idea and who knows nothing about levees or some other elements of a comprehensive solution to California’s water problems.”

The Economic Sustainability Plan found that should a catastrophe were to occur in the Delta, 100% of the loss of life, and 80% of the economic loss would be shouldered by the people of the Delta region. “The Governor is ignoring solid evidence of the best and most cost-effective methods to manage our water resources, to instead support a project that favors the largest corporate agribusiness growers of the West Side of the San Joaquin Valley,” said Barrigan-Parrilla.

Shoring up the Delta levees is a far more efficacious way to ensure water reliability for the state and preserve environmental and economic stability to the greater Delta---at a $2-4 billion cost, rather than the $20 billion or so estimated for the tunnel conveyance around the Delta.

The levees will need rehabilitation even were a Peripheral Canal or Tunnel built, as there is $20 Billion in infrastructure (railroads, gas lines, power facilities, highways), and 4 million people in the Delta that need protection.

“[A] large investment in strengthening the Delta’s levee and emergency response systems is a cost-effective approach to improving water supply reliability, economic sustainability in the Delta, and reliable energy, transportation, and water infrastructure that serves statewide interests.” (Economic Sustainability Plan for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, Jan. 2012, p.3)

Restore the Delta is a grassroots campaign committed to making the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta fishable, swimmable, drinkable, and farmable to benefit all of California. Restore the Delta works to improve water quality so that fisheries and farming can thrive together again in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. For more information about Restore the Delta, go to

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by build setback levees, NOT a canal!
Wednesday Sep 19th, 2012 4:55 PM
Another option is to set the levees further back and restore the riparian floodplain. This is more effective at preventing flooding than are taller or fatter levees. Simply give the rivers more room to meander and enter the floodplain during high stage flood events and they will return water to the aquifer once settled. The greater width of the river with a setback levee will give the water more space to spread out instead of rushing down a tight channel where pressure can weaken a levee.

Many other places have made the wise choice of installing setback levees on their rivers, gaining the following once in place;

enhanced riparian floodplain habitat (oxbow lakes, willows, wetlands, cottonwoods, oaks, etc...)

no (extremely low) risk of flooding

restored meander of riverbed enhances flow

return water to riparian aquifers from settlement basins (oxbow lakes, wetlands, etc...)


set-back levee

Levees that are constructed at a distance from the river channel in order to allow the river to occupy a portion of its floodplain; these levees are usually smaller in size than levees placed immediately adjacent to the river channel. SEE ALSO: levee, natural levee.

Some places have begun installing setback levees;

Project overview

The Cedar Rapids Levee Setback Repair Project will repair the existing Cedar Rapids setback levees along both the left and right banks of the Cedar River.

The project is located within the Cedar Rapids Natural Area on the Cedar River between river mile 7.2 and 7.4. The levee setback modification along the left bank will occur between river mile 7.2 and 7.4, and the revetment setback project on the right bank will occur at river mile 7.25. These river locations roughly correspond to the 17600 block of State Route 169 (Maple Valley Highway) on the left bank, and Southeast Jones Road on the right bank.

A buried rock toe will be installed along the riverward face of the left (south) bank. On the right (north) bank, a short segment of the upstream end of the Brassfield Revetment will be set back and will tie into the Cedar Rapids Setback Levee. Large angular rock placed in the channel during a 2011 emergency project will be incorporated into the new facility. Native trees and shrubs will be planted to restore the areas impacted by this project.

Project goals;

Flood damage reduction:

home buyouts to remove from harm's way

increase flood capacity of the reach

continue flood protection of adjacent properties

Salmon recovery through habitat improvements

Design that addresses recreational uses

2012 goals are to repair existing levee to provide adequate erosion protection

Bear River setback levee;

•Project Objectives:◦Replace weakened levee with setback levee
◦Establish a stable, vegetated riverbank
◦Increase wildlife habitat

The Three Rivers Levee Improvement Authority is working to improve levees on the Yuba, Feather, and Bear Rivers in the Sacramento Valley. The existing levees provide flood protection for approximately 16,000 acres of farms and urban land, including 25,000 current residents and 12,000 future households in the planned residential development of Plumas Lake.

In 2005, Three Rivers Levee Improvement Authority broke ground on the construction of the Bear River Setback levee, which was designed to replace an existing levee that was weakened by major structural deficiencies. The setback levee portion of the improvements is approximately 9,600 feet long and replaced portions of the Bear River and Feather River levees at the confluence of the two rivers. The old levees were removed and used for construction of the new setback levee.

Benefits of the setback levee range from public safety to environmental. The new levee has been designed to provide a 200-year level of flood protection; Yuba County will be the first urban area in the Central Valley to offer 200-year flood protection. In addition, a partnership with River Partners resulted in the planting of 1 million shrubs and trees in the setback area, which is critical to preventing erosion in the expanded floodway. Approximately 600 acres of wildlife habitat have been created, benefiting several threatened and endangered species, including Swainson’s hawk, yellowbilled cuckoo, valley elderberry longhorn beetle, and Chinook salmon.

"For a variety of reasons River Partners is supportive of moving levees back from the river and we are involved in a number of levee setback projects. One of the reasons that we support levee setbacks is that it allows the river to follow its natural course of meandering across the floodplain.

In all but the steepest mountain cascades, rivers will meander. In lower gradient valleys, such as the Sacramento and San Joaquin for much of their length, a river’s physical imperative to meander is the greatest.

When rivers are denied the space to meander due to levees, rock revetments, or other impediments, many beneficial river services are diminished. In their natural state, rivers are dynamic ecosystems, supplying the floodplain with soil and nutrients for its diverse riparian habitats and in turn providing organic materials to aquatic species. The meandering river and its floodplain temporarily store excess floodwater and recharge ground water and reduce stream velocities.

Meander bends often form oxbow lakes that eventually fill with soil and vegetation and serve as traces of the river’s previous courses. These oxbows and the meandering river give definition to the land, providing a characteristic “riverscape.”

Beyond the ecological and aesthetic benefits, setback levees make sense economically as well. Allowing a river to meander avoids the expenses involved in maintaining the levees and rock revetments designed to hold a river in place. Further, when denied the space to meander, floodwaters are often “funneled” down stream, leading to increased flood damage, greater downstream shoreline erosion and channel incision.

Once a levee is setback, the river may begin to meander and this poses a challenge to implementing riparian restoration on the floodplain. River Partners works with engineers to plan the restoration design. For example, Eric Larsen of UC Davis has constructed model scenarios that simulate the future migration of the river given different restraint conditions. The application of such models is an integral part of the scientific approach that River Partners takes to restoring native vegetation on dynamic riparian floodplains."

The peripheral canal represents Gov. Jerry Brown reaching out to the agribusiness lobbyists. The agribusiness lobby of the San Joaquin Valley will steal water from wherever they can before they will change their wasteful ways. However, as i have stated numerous times, there are drought tolerant cash crops available for them to grow if only their human stubborness and resistance to science and logic can be overcome. That willfull ignorance on the part of the San Joaquin agribusiness lobby is the greatest challenge yet to be overcome. In the end truth and logic shall prevail over greed, deception and stupidity. The San Joaquin agribusinesses will fail and collapse if they do not begin converting to drought tolerant cash crops in a timely manner.

In addition to setback levees it would be vital for San Joaquin farms to convert to drought tolerant cash crops; tepary bean, jojoba and nopales. These do not require water inputs to the degree as their current crops, and farmers can drastically reduce their water demand while continuing to profit from their drought tolerant crops.

"Jojoba: A Potential Desert Oil Crop

Jojoba, [Simmondsia chinensis (Link) Schneider] is a new oil-producing industrial crop that has attracted much attention in recent years. Jojoba oil is unique in nature. No other plant is known to produce oil like jojobas. It is used in the cosmetic, medical, pharmaceutical, food products, manufacturing, and automotive industries (as lubricant). And it is a renewable energy resource. It is remarkable to note that, in spite of the variability in size or where grown, each jojoba seed contains an average of 50% pure oil by volume. Jojoba is native to the semiarid regions of southern Arizona, southern California and northwestern Mexico. Now Jojoba is being cultivated in Israel and Rajasthan, India to provide a renewable source of unique high-quality oil. Much of the interest in jojoba worldwide is the result of the plant's ability to survive in a harsh desert environment. Jojoba can be grown as an oil-producing cash crop. Jojoba is very drought-resistant and can be grown on marginal lands without replacing any existing crops. Fully mature shrubs or trees can reach a height of 15 feet with a potential natural life span of 100 to 200 years depending on environmental conditions. For optimum production, the crop needs irrigation, care, and a good cultivar."

Not only is the nopal cactus drought tolerant and indigenous to the southwestern desert, it is also a potential prevention food against diabetes;

Nopal Cactus for Diabetes

February 22, 2012 Written by JP

Next week I’ll be taking my work on the road. More specifically, I’ll head down south to Mexico for a fact finding mission and informational exchange. One of the planned areas of discussion will focus on an edible cactus commonly known as nopal or nopales, as diabetes and prediabetic conditions (i.e. metabolic syndrome) are quickly reaching an epidemic level in Mexico. Nopales, when eaten as a part of one’s daily diet, may offer a valuable tool in turning the diabetes tide in Mexico and beyond.

In 2008, a scientific review of the “Risks and Benefits of Commonly Used Herbal Medicines in Mexico” was published in the journal of Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology. The authors of the summary note that, “nopal leaves have a high content of fiber and pectin” and thereby increase “the viscosity of food in the gut, slowing or reducing sugar absorption”. Current research presented in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology goes on to report that extracts of nopales also inhibit the activity of the enzyme alpha-glucosidase which digests dietary starch and sugar. This is a mechanism shared by select anti-diabetic medications such as acarbose (Precose) and miglitol (Glyset).

Finally the tepary bean gives more protein for less water;

Grown during the blistering hot summer of the Sonoran Desert, tepary beans are one of the most heat and drought resistant crops in the world. The same adaptations that allow them to thrive in harsh desert conditions make them incredibly healthy. They are extremely high in protein and very low on the glycemic index (29). As a result, they help regulate blood sugar levels and are particularly good for diabetics and others concerned about he impacts of simple carbohydrates on their health.