By Dena O'DellFebruary 10, 2019
LOS ANGELES - Directors from flood-risk management agencies representing seven Southern California counties met for the Seven County Flood Control Directors meeting Jan. 31 at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District headquarters in downtown LA.
The purpose of the meeting was to provide the Corps' partners with the latest information about flood-risk management programs and operations, including emergency assistance procedures, regulatory programs and permitting, as well as address matters of concern and interest from each respective county.
Discussions included an overview of some of the Corps' planning, studies and programs, as well as the Corps' availability during flood fights, status of the Levee Safety program and Clean Water Act Section 408 and Section 404 permit updates.
Representatives from the seven counties - Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Orange, Riverside, Ventura, San Diego and San Bernadino, along with Corps and the National Association of Flood and Stormwater Management Agencies - NAFSMA - were present.
NAFSMA is an organization of public agencies whose function is the protection of lives, property and economic activity from the adverse impacts of storm and flood waters. According to its website, the mission of NAFSMA is to advocate public policy, encourage technologies and conduct education programs that facilitate and enhance the achievement of the public service function of its members.
Col. Aaron Barta, the Corps' LA District commander, welcomed the group.
As the rain poured down outside during the meeting, Barta reassured those in attendance that Corps' staff was monitoring the weather and any potential flood risks in its Reservoir Operations Center down the hall from the meeting room. Before the group broke for lunch, attendees were given a tour of the center and an overview of operations during potential flooding events.
A few representatives left the meeting early to travel back to their respective counties due to concerns about potential flooding in their areas.
In addition to allowing the Corps to be transparent about its programs and operations, the annual meeting is a way for those involved to collaborate and discuss programs that impact their communities. It's also a way for the various county representatives to familiarize themselves with key Corps staff and each other.
James Tyler, manager of Flood Programs for Orange County Public Works, Santa Ana, California, said the meeting was beneficial, in terms of sharing information and collaborating. This is the second annual meeting Tyler has attended.
"There's a lot of information they go over in the meeting. It's good to hear that," Tyler said. "I work with San Bernadino and Riverside counties a lot because we share common projects. Santa Ana River Mainstem is a big project we have been working on for years. We have a working relationship with the Corps and (our counties), but not as much with the other counties, so it's good to interact with them as well."
LeAnn Carmichael, program manager with the Environmental Services Unit for San Diego County, said the meeting allowed her to interact and become more familiar with key Corps' employees who have direct insight into policy development and setting the agency's office priorities, like the chiefs of regulatory, planning and engineering.
"Our local (Corps permitting) office is great, but they're the boots on the ground. (They) process our permits," she said. "But overall policy development - they can't push that forward. They can't change a direction or a policy or a practice or even have the authority to set those office priorities. By having this meeting, we get to have that direct conduit with the folks that can set those priorities; the folks that we need their attention, so it's really helpful."
The meeting also allowed Carmichael to engage with other counties on what they're doing about issues, like homeless encampments in county flood control channels.
"Not only are we talking to the Army Corps, but we also are talking to our other partners in Southern California about how they deal with it," she said.
Barta emphasized the overall goal of the meeting - continued communication and collaboration with local partners to keep communities safe.
"The meeting with the Seven County Flood Control directors was very beneficial for everyone, as we are all invested in the same goal of protecting our people and their property," Barta said. "The rain that fell during our meeting was a stark reminder of the importance of working together as partners to support each other's goals."