Watershed University is a free event that provides education and networking opportunities for California professionals in floodplain management, water management, emergency management and related fields. Led by the California Silver Jackets, this event is a cooperative effort that evolved from the recognition that some communities could not afford the investment of time and money to send floodplain managers and other professionals to conferences. It has since grown to provide a variety of timely flood risk reduction topics to professionals worldwide.
Wildfires dramatically alter watershed hydrologic, hydraulic, and sediment response. Accurate numeric models are essential to establish a prioritized risk mitigation plan. Rapid assessment of infrastructure is critical to development of actionable emergency response and planning models. Collecting all the measurements to build robust models during emergency field reconnaissance is challenging. Developing the model is simple compared to calibration, especially while the watershed is recovering. Key to calibration of numeric models is accurate flood discharge data. Unfortunately, high energy floods and debris flows destroy pressure transducers and associated gaging stations downstream of burn scars. Non-contact gaging and remote sensing are the only options available.
During the webinar on April 23, 2019, Stephen Brown described a few of the tools that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is developing to reduce post-wildfire critical infrastructure risk.
- Stephen Brown, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Albuquerque District
Presentation, Recording, and Other Links:
The Yolo Bypass is the central feature of the Sacramento River Flood Control Project. Its landscape is widely valued not only for its function as a flood protection facility, but also for a vibrant agricultural industry and critically important habitat for bird and mammal species, as well as many migrating fish. The Bypass is the focus of several major interagency efforts aimed at improving flood conveyance, fisheries and wildlife habitats, water supply and water quality, agricultural land preservation, and economic development.
During this webinar, Gary Bardini, Director of Planning for the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency, talked about efforts to work with other local, State, and federal agencies on Yolo Bypass project implementation.
Gary Bardini, Director of Planning
Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency
Presentation and Recording:
The 2016 Soberanes Fire was one of the costliest fires in US history and spanned across 200 square miles in Monterey County. The following winter, back-to-back storms targeted the burn area and dropped 10 inches of rain in a couple of days, unleashing an unprecedented amount of runoff. The burn area allowed for debris torrents and flows in Rocky Creek resulting from erosion due to the loss of vegetation, reductions in infiltration, and soil water repellency along the Palo Colorado Watershed. The debris flows on Rocky Creek ultimately caused several roadway failures due to scouring and creek overtopping.
The design team responded following the storms to assess the damage and come up with a long-term repair at the site. Conventional construction methods are limited, so the design team prepared a practical design that would allow smaller haul trucks and materials to be transported up the road.
During the Watershed University webinar, Alex Yescas provided a first-hand account of the post-wildfire flooding assessments that took place along Palo Colorado Road in January and February of 2017. He shared key points about the on the site constraints and the process that an agency must go through for federal funding approval following a disaster declaration.
Alex Yescas, PE, CFM, ENV SP
Water Resources Sector Lead
HDR, Inc., San Diego, CA
Presentation and Recording:
California has no mighty rivers like the Mississippi, but rivers of a different kind can flood the state. In winter 2017, more than a meter of precipitation fell in some places, unleashing floods, triggering landslides, and causing evacuation of 200,000 people. It’s all because of atmospheric rivers: long, narrow ribbons of water vapor rushing across the sky. Just a few hundred kilometers wide, atmospheric rivers stretch thousands of kilometers from the tropical oceans toward the poles, carrying on average 25 times as much water as the Mississippi River, but as vapor rather than liquid. When atmospheric rivers make landfall and the vapor condenses, they can release a staggering amount of rain and snow. On September 25, Scripps Institution of Oceanography meteorologist Marty Ralph, Director of the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes described the phenomena of atmospheric rivers, their impact on our weather, and the essential role modeling and prediction play in managing California’s precious water resources.
F. Martin Ralph, Ph. D.
Director, Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes
Research, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
UC San Diego, La Jolla
Presentation, Recording, and Resources:
- Download the presentation (PDF, 13 MB)
- Watch the webinar recording on YouTube
- Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes
FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program is offering grant funding for Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM) and Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA). PDM is designed to help States, territories, federally-recognized Tribes, and local communities to implement a sustained pre-disaster natural hazard mitigation program to reduce overall risk to the population and structures from future hazard events, while also reducing reliance on Federal funding in future disasters. The FMA program’s goal is to reduce or eliminate claims under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Steven Larson, CA Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, will cover:
- Who is eligible to apply,
- Typical types of projects funded,
- Funding limits,
- Application process, and
- Steven Larson, California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, Program Manager for the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (Disaster grants) and the Pre-Disaster Mitigation and Flood Mitigation Assistance Grant Program.
Presentation, Recording, and Resources:
With the effects of climate change necessitating wholesale changes in how water is managed in California, “Flood-MAR” presents a sustainable strategy that can simultaneously accommodate longer and deeper droughts, and more severe and frequent episodic and seasonal flooding. Flood-MAR is an integrated water resource management strategy that uses flood water resulting from, or in anticipation of, rainfall or snowmelt for managed aquifer recharge on agricultural lands and working landscapes. Flood-MAR can also be implemented at multiple scales, from individual landowners diverting flood water with existing infrastructure to using extensive detention/recharge areas and modernizing flood management infrastructure and operations.
Kamyar Guivetchi, Manager of the Division of Statewide Integrated Water Management, California Department of Water Resources (DWR).
In December 2017, the Lilac Fire broke out in San Diego County. More than 1,300 residents were forced to evacuate and more than 4,100 acres were scorched before the fire ended.
On Tuesday, June 19, René Vidales, Jeremy Fantaroni, and Mehdi Khalili described the damage done and the work that went into the recovery effort, including damage assessments, implementation of best management practices, and emergency assistance to homeowners.
- René Vidales, Program Coordinator, County of San Diego Watershed Protection Program
- Jeremy Fantaroni, Environmental Planner III, County of San Diego Watershed Protection Program
- Mehdi Khalili, Civil Engineer, County of San Diego Flood Control Engineering
Presentation and Recording
During this webinar, James Eto, California's National Flood Insurance Program Coordinator, provided an introduction to FEMA's National Flood Insurance Program and described how the California Department of Water Resources helps FEMA administer the program. The NFIP was instituted in 1968 and continues to play an important role in communities’ floodplain management decisions.
The overview included:
- What is the NFIP?
- Who needs the NFIP?
- What are the requirements of the NFIP?
- What questions should be referred to DWR, to FEMA, or to the local community
- What are elevation certificates and who needs them?
Presentation and Recording
The Lower San Joaquin Levee District is a unique portion of the flood system in California's Central Valley. The district's history and operations are different than in other areas of California, and it has a unique set of challenges in the way that it operates. On April 24, Reggie Hill, General Manager, gave a presentation on the district's history and the way it is operated. He also discussed how subsidence and other recent changes in the area have caused additional challenges for maintaining the district.
- Watch the webinar
- Download the presentation (PDF: 290 MB)
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We post recordings of past webinars on our YouTube channel for those unable to attend.