WATER RESOURCES DEVELOPMENT ACT OF 1998
SUBCOMMITTEE ON TRANSPORTATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE
REMARKS BY SENATOR BARBARA BOXER
June 23, 1998

Thank you, Chairman Warner, for your leadership in moving us ahead with consideration of WRDA 98.

The Water Resources Development Act has been an important mechanism for California and the Nation to maintain our harbors and waterways and to protect our citizens and businesses against the devastating effects of floods. Since the Act was first passed in 1986, the Army Corps of Engineers has built numerous flood control works, coastal harbor and inland waterway improvements. These works have not only protected our communities but have also been an important instrument to their further economic development.

WRDA 98 will provide authorization for new projects that are sorely needed in light of the devastating "el Nio" weather system California has endured in the last year. Flood control has never been so important as it has been with the enormous rainfall we have received.

The legislation recommended by the President is welcome news for my state of California. Not only has the Administration submitted a long-term flood control protection plan for the Sacramento area but the President has proposed a new initiative, known as Challenge 21, to provide our communities a way to reduce flood costs in a more natural, environmentally beneficial manner.

I look forward to the testimony on this Challenge 21 plan. I believe many communities will be interested in this approach. In fact, in my state the people of Napa County learned how to modify their flood control plan and by working together produced a consensus plan that incorporates natural elements of flood control.

I also want to thank my colleagues here for their help in providing improved flood protection for the Sacramento area in the WRDA '96 bill. Now the plan for the American River Watershed in the current Administration bill builds on the authorization for flood control that this Committee approved in 1996.

Sacramento, our state capitol, is located at the confluence of both the Sacramento River flowing from the north and the American River, which cascades from the High Sierra mountains from the east. There are 400,000 residents, 130 schools and 5,000 businesses located in the floodplain and $37 billion worth of property at risk. The most likely cause of a flood would be a breach in the American River levees which could inundate 55,000 acres.

The damages from even a 100-year flood would be comparable to the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake which caused 63 deaths, almost 4,000 injuries and $8 billion in direct property damage. Our awareness of this risk has heightened since the Corps determined late last year the 100-year level of flood protection has dropped to 77-year level now. Sacramento has one of the highest levels of risk and one of the lowest levels of protection. Over the next 30 years, Sacramento has a 1-in-3 chance of flooding.

In 1996, this committee approved a so-called "common elements" plan to provide a minimum level of flood protection. These were improvements that were common to all three flood control plans then under study. This latest plan, builds on a growing community consensus on the most cost-effective plan for flood protection. This plan is a two-part approach which involves increasing the flood control capacity of the Folsom Dam on the American River and raising and strengthening the existing American River levees.

Mr. Chairman, the Sacramento area has gone through a wrenching debate over the best approach to flood control with the specter of disaster always hovering above them. There is still a minority pushing for construction of a dam on the American River at costs ranging from one to two billion dollars. The Auburn Dam would destroy nearly 50 miles and 10,000 acres of the American River and the diverse habitats of its canyons, where there are three species, including the bald eagle, on the Federal list of endangered and threatened species. Congress now has twice rejected the high-cost, 500-foot Auburn Dam alternative that would have been built on an earthquake fault. Now, we have come together and resolved to move ahead on a realistic plan. This plan was approved by the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency in March by a 10-to-2 vote. The Sacramento City Council has unanimously approved the plan and the National Wildlife Federation, Friends of the Earth, and the Sierra Club and have endorsed it.

It's time for us to move forward with a plan for permanent protection. Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent that testimony from the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency be entered into the committee record.

Thank you.