2015 Annual Report Update
Message from Julie
In 2015 we continued efforts to better serve the residents of Contra Costa County by increasing outreach, making improvements to our facilities, and ensuring that County agencies and residents alike are prepared for the El Niño influenced winter. We are currently tackling our funding and regulatory challenges, and are involved in State-wide efforts towards a sustainable funding mechanism for storm water.
We continue working to reduce flood risk for our communities, restore and enhance natural resources in our watersheds, and promote the reduction of storm water pollutants in the Bay/Delta region.
Summary of Accomplishments
Creek and Channel Safety Awareness Program
Students at Walnut Creek Intermediate School held a successful week-long “Stay Out, Stay Alive!” campaign, which received positive media coverage.
The Creek and Channel Safety Awareness Program conducted its first safety week at Walnut Creek Intermediate School working with the leadership class to help develop and implement events for students that would raise student awareness of the “Stay Out, Stay Alive!” campaign. The highly successful program engaged hundreds of students in such activities as a poster competition and trivia contest, and it received positive local news coverage including several student interviews. This occurred the week of October 19-23 as part of our annual Creek and Channel Safety Month. Per our program schedule, all schools in the County were sent reminders in September to help get the “Stay Out, Stay Alive!” message to their students and parents and the Board declared October as Creek and Channel Safety Awareness month on October 6.
Winter Preparedness - El Niño
Critical winter preparedness information went out to County residents as part of a new media and community outreach campaign rolled out in October.
To help County residents prepare for the anticipated El Nino influenced winter, the District launched a new online “Ready for Rain” campaign including a new web page, links to sand bag information, flood forecast tools, homeowner tips for winter preparedness, 24 hour contact information, and media releases. A sandbag station media event was held in December with several news agencies helping us get our winter preparedness message out to the public. As part of this program, staff was made available to attend community meetings regarding winter preparedness. This program as rolled out at the October 20, 2015 Board of Supervisors meeting.
Rainfall tools and flood forecasting
We created an interactive web page to share flood risk information with the public, including mobile devices.
With Flood Emergency Response grant funds, we created an interactive web page to share our rain and stream gauge information with the public, including mobile devices. We integrated this with our “7532 flood” protocol which tracks the watershed wetness based on recent rainfall and indicates the potential for risk of flooding from the National Weather Service forecast. This “cool tool” uses the Google web map format and allows users to pinpoint their current location for detailed local rainfall history and forecast information. It provides an easy way for citizens, public agency managers, and the media to track flood risk as conditions change and be better prepared.
Wildcat and San Pablo Creeks Levee Remediation Project
The design phase for our Wildcat and San Pablo Creeks Levee Remediation Project to reduce flood risk in North Richmond was completed.
The District completed the next phase toward reducing flood risk for the North Richmond community by preparing final construction plans for the levee remediation project along Wildcat Creek and San Pablo Creek. This project restores FEMA accreditation for the levees by performing necessary studies and levee improvements, so nearby residents don’t have to pay costly flood insurance. Items for 2016 include final regulatory permits, final funding approval, and advance environmental mitigation work performed by local youth from Urban Tilth.
Giving the Natives a Chance Community Planting Day
Our third “Giving the Natives a Chance” community planting day was held in December, with over 40 volunteers.
The third annual “Giving the Natives a Chance” community planting day was held on December 12, 2015. This started as a pilot project to install native plants in a flood control channel overgrown by undesirable species, and due to its success, the site on Clayton Drain in Concord was expanded this year. Besides returning native plants to our creek environment and reducing herbicide use, this event brought members of the community together to increase creek awareness and stewardship. This year we had another good turnout of 42 people.
Vegetation Management 3-yr Study
We completed a 3-year study of alternative vegetation management practices, such as goat grazing, to compare with traditional herbicide use.
We completed a three year study comparing the safety, cost, and efficacy of goat and sheep grazing vs. traditional herbicide use for managing vegetation in our flood control channels. Vegetation, water quality, and erosion monitoring was performed in two reaches of Walnut Creek in Concord utilizing a specialized consultant. The results indicated several benefits to reduced herbicide use and increased grazing, so we have begun to implement those changes in our vegetation management program. The report is being finalized and released in early 2016.
Three Creeks Project
In July, we launched a $2 million habitat restoration and public access project on Marsh Creek in Brentwood with partner American Rivers.
In July, we launched the Three Creeks Parkway Project in Brentwood, a multi-agency public-private partnership to transform ¾ mile of Marsh Creek flood control channel into high quality salmon and riparian habitat, with enhanced public access. Funding obtained to date includes $1 million from the adjacent housing developer, a $744,000 State Department of Water Resources grant in partnership with American Rivers, and other funds raised by American Rivers. In this first phase, planning and environmental studies were performed.
Facility Conditions Assessment Program
Our pilot Facility Assessment Program was concluded successfully, allowing us to embark on the full five-year program.
A facility assessment pilot program was conducted, studying three types of facilities (concrete channel, detention basin, and drop structure) located in the Walnut Creek and West Alamo Creek watersheds. Staff worked with structural engineering consultants to develop assessment protocols, perform the studies, and provide feedback and adjustments. Due to successful completion of the pilot project, we rolled out a multi-year program to include all District facilities throughout the County. The goal is to complete the assessment in five years, at an estimated cost of five million dollars.
Lower Walnut Creek Restoration Project
Significant progress was made on our Lower Walnut Creek Restoration Project to transform two flood control channels into sustainable creeks.
Following the Corps of Engineers action in 2014 to return the most downstream 4 miles of Walnut Creek to the District, restoration planning began in earnest on the largest section of the largest creek in the County. Throughout 2015, the District reached out to dozens of stakeholders and regulators to understand their perspective on the Lower Walnut Creek area, help form a restoration vision, establish goals and objectives, and to formulate various restoration concepts that enhance habitat and improve long term resiliency. A number of tours were given to increase awareness of the project, including a team of regional science experts as part of their all-day planning seminar for the regional Flood Control 2.0 effort. We also partnered with the San Francisco Estuary Institute on an historical ecology assessment of Lower Walnut Creek which will help inform restoration planning.
Lower Walnut Creek Corps Levee Safety - SWIF
We investigated and responded to Corps of Engineers new levee safety requirements for Grayson Creek, Clayton Drain, and Walnut Creek.
We investigated and responded to Corps of Engineers new levee safety requirements for Grayson Creek, Clayton Drain, and Walnut Creek in the Pacheco area. We worked to permit dozens of pre-existing and new encroachments identified by the Corps. Utility companies were contacted to clarify land rights and ensure any pipelines that cross under or through levees were inspected and reported to be in good shape. We also filed a System-Wide Improvement Framework with the Corps of Engineers to ensure the levee system remains eligible for disaster relief assistance, if needed.
FCD Public Opinion Survey
Our first ever public opinion survey assessed awareness of the District and services provided.
Our first ever professional public opinion survey was performed regarding the District and the services we provide, the relative importance of flood-risk/risk-reduction, and support for the District’s 50-Year Plan. The results showed about one third of our customers are familiar with the District, and the District is viewed favorably by those who are aware of the District. The highest priority services identified were water quality, public education, habitat protection, and creating natural pathways for flood waters. When gauging interest for the District’s “50 Year Plan” (replacing traditional concrete channels with natural stream systems) we found that two thirds of our customer base supported the general concept of the 50-Year Plan, even when it would require additional funding to implement. The results are just in, so a more formal report on the survey results is forthcoming, as well as establishment of benchmarks for future public assessment and measurement of customer service performance. Our consultant recommends a survey every five years. The report is being finalized and will be released in early 2016.
Creek and Watershed Symposium
Over 300 people attended the County’s 5th Quadrennial Creek and Watershed Symposium put on by the District.
The District put on the County’s 5th Quadrennial Creek and Watershed Symposium held on December 3rd, 2015 at the Pleasant Hill Community Center. Over 300 attendees gathered with the theme of “Learn, Inspire, Network, and Celebrate” regarding the various accomplishments made in County watersheds. The recipient for Watershed Leadership Champion was Bob Simmons, the Wildcat Creek Daylighting Project received the Watershed Project Award, and the Watersheds in Education Award went to the Outdoor Wetlands Learning Program. Keynote speaker Matt Kondolf presented “River Restoration: Experience Globally, Apply Locally.” There was a discussion panel on “Climate Change in the East Bay,” a panel on “Lower Walnut Creek: Past, Present, and Future,” and a panel on “Youth and Teachers in Watersheds.” The Symposium is being re-broadcast by CCTV.
Challenges and Action Plans
Increasing Maintenance Backlog: Maintenance Facilities Conditions Index
Our maintenance backlog continues to increase causing the performance of our facilities to decrease.
Due to various factors, primarily funding and staffing, our backlog of facility maintenance continues to grow, causing our service level performance to decline. We are working to develop measurement tools and metrics to help establish the magnitudes involved. From that, we will develop a plan to reduce our backlog over time.
Increasing Permit Requirements: Streamlining
Increasing permit requirements results in reduced service levels.
Meeting new and increased regulatory requirements requires us to redirect resources. We and our customers do not have a handle on the associated impacts, other than an observed service level decrease. We are working with the Bay Area Flood Protection Agencies Association and other agencies to evaluate the impacts and communicate those to our leaders and the public.
Lack of Funding: Statewide Stormwater Funding Initiative
Changes to our limited funding are necessary to provide sustainable programs.
Most flood protection, drainage, and stormwater agencies statewide suffer from inadequate funding and are headed into a funding crisis. Proposition 13 froze tax rates at low levels almost 40 years ago, and Proposition 218 has made it difficult to increase revenue for the past 20 years. The County has been working with the California State Association of Counties and the County Engineers Association of California on a Statewide Stormwater Funding Initiative to reclassify stormwater agency funding to be similar to what water and wastewater utility districts currently have. A proposed ballot measure was filed with the State Attorney General’s office in December to initiate a stormwater funding measure for the November ballot. If passed, this ballot measure will go a long way toward providing the much needed sustainable funding for our services.
2015 Progress on Action Plan
We are making progress on our action plan items.
The FC District will continue implementation of the action plans outlined in the 2013 Annual Report. The key action for the next few years will be to focus on developing sustainable funding for all our programs.
Documents2015 Annual Report
2014 Annual Report
2013 Annual Report