Yolo Bypass

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Keeping Central Valley Crops and People Safe From Floods: A Costly Proposition

Big plans to revamp the Valley’s piecemeal flood management system…if there’s money for it

Now that the state’s revamped Central Valley Flood Protection Plan (big PDF) is out for public perusal, the question is whether the political will — and the cash — will be there to make it happen.

David McNew/Getty Images

California's status as an agricultural powerhouse is largely due to the fertile lands in the Central Valley, which are also prone to floods.

The Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins run through the valley and can overflow their banks threatening more than a million people and an estimated $69 billion in assets, according to the report.┬áThe current flood management system has been in place for about a hundred years and was designed specifically to keep water from the rivers off the land so that people could grow crops. Now the system has varied uses including conservation of habitat, water supply and water quality. The old system really isn’t up to the job anymore and almost everyone agrees that it will take a serious investment to bring it up to snuff.

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California’s Ingenious Flood Relief Valve

Opening California’s “spillway” is not the sort of thing that brings out CNN

This week officials made the uncomfortable decision to place thousands of homes and businesses in harm’s way, in order to avoid an even bigger catastrophe on the lower Mississippi River.

But as the opening of the Morganza Spillway was the subject of national media attention, California’s version had already been deployed a month earlier — and hardly anyone noticed.

The Yolo Bypass may be California’s most ingenious contrivance for flood protection and yet, many people drive over it every day without knowing its purpose.

The Yolo Bypass on March 1 of this year. The Sacramento skyline rises in the distance. (Photo: Craig Miller)

The bypass is a 59,000-acre funnel designed to catch the overflow of the Sacramento River and divert it harmlessly downstream, dumping it back into the main channel near Rio Vista. Generally speaking, it works like a charm. And it does so without fanfare because there are nobody lives there. That’s the idea. Continue reading