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Westside study looks at flooding patterns
A high-tech mapping system needs some "puddle patrol" input about just how storm waters from foothill creeks impact the westside communities of Maxwell, Williams and Arbuckle.
That was the message delivered to Federal Emergency Management Agency and state Department of Water Resource officials at a flood mapping meeting held Thursday in Colusa.
DWR officials have started an intensive study to determine how flood waters flow, how fast and where they disperse once they come off the hillside and onto the valley floor.
It is part of a process that will ultimately determine how the official FEMA flood map of Colusa County looks — at least for those communities.
The details mapping is centered largely around populated areas, and are typically less detailed for open farm land.
That became a point of contention when Kathy Schaefer, the point person for FEMA at the meeting, admittedly chose the wrong words when she said no one cared whether farmland gets flooded.
That received a quick retort from Tom Ellis of Grimes, who has been arguing that rural areas are too often ignored in the state and federal flood protection discussions.
"When you get to the point of when you can't build anymore or can't repair anything, you have thrown a wet blanket over us," Ellis said.
His contention is that if the rural areas are not included in the flood protection solutions, then farmers and others in that area will not be able to get the financing to keep their operations going.
Schaefer backed up from her statement, then reiterated that the FEMA flood map for Colusa County will not be completed anytime soon.
That is important in that until the maps are published, local residents are not required to purchase federal flood insurance.
Once the maps are published, depending on where someone lives or has property, that will determine the level of risk and the rates for the insurance.
It also could determine if banks or other institutions will even finance anything in a high-risk flood plain.
The detailed map will include the contours of the county topography and identifies levees and other structures that change the natural flow of waters.
The "puddle patrol" is a friendly moniker Colusa area farmer Lincoln Forry has given the Colusa County road crew, members of which are on the ground dealing with water flows anytime those creeks swell.
That life experience, local officials said, is invaluable when trying to understand water in the county.
Actually, the government officials are looking for local input, not only from county crews, but from farmers, irrigation districts and anyone else that has information.
The state agency is under time pressure to complete the study by June because the federal grant funding it runs out in September.
That raised some concerns that the accuracy of the study might be compromised by the push to get it done, but officials said that will not be the case because and extension can always be requested.
The Williams are study will eye Salt Creek primarily, but also Freshwater Creek.
Most of the attention around Arbuckle will be on Salt and Elk creeks, but Sand Creek and Whiskey Creek also are in the study perimeter.
Around Maxwell, the focus will be on Stone Corral Creek. And while Funks Creek and the Funks Creek Dam are in the study area, they are not viewed as factors.
What is a factor, although to what degree has yet to be determined, is the Tehama-Colusa Canal.