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Near-Record Sierra Snowpack Increases Threat of Major Flooding

June 20, 2011

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - A near-record Sierra snowpack will soon put California's rivers to the test. As the snow melts, state water managers will be keeping an eye on them and preparing for possible floods.

Jessica Ludy, associate director for California flood management with American Rivers, says the flood dangers underscore the important role healthy rivers play in flood protection, and that policymakers should take notice.

"We can't extend the floodway this year, but if we can give rivers below dams also more room, then dam operators can more safely release water during flood times."

Ludy would like to see an emphasis on expanding floodways by setting back levees to give the rivers more room to spread out. She says California leaders should take lessons from the record floods on the Mississippi and Missouri rivers.

"If we take advantage of our limited opportunities for creating spillways through a flood bypass and giving rivers more room, then we can also protect our cities, our jobs, our industries, etc."

Ludy says we need to make "room for the rivers" and invest in more floodplain restoration and flood bypasses. She uses the Yolo Bypass built in Sacramento in the 1930s as an example of how leaving room for a river to expand can protect cities and wildlife.

More information is available at

Lori Abbott, Public News Service - CA