Folks in Sacremento aren’t crazy about surfing city streets
The short version
With all the heavy rain and snow that Northern California has received the past couple of weeks, the decision was made yesterday to open the Sacremento weir, flooding crops and fields in an effort to avoid flooding in the city of Sacremento. This is a huge undertaking that is almost certainly going to affect some food prices as flooded crops are completely lost. The move was a bit of a gamble but had to be done.
What the hell is a weir?
For the purposes of this conversation, go with the fence concept. In the case of the Sacremento Weir, this is a 100-year-old monstrosity consisting of 48 wooden gates, each of which has to be opened manually by a state worker with a long hook. The poor guy had to get up and wander out there in the middle of the night to open these things and let the water flow downstream. The gates can’t be shut until the water behind them recedes below the gates, which could take a while.
Additionally, there are five other weirs and several spillways upstream. This is all a very complicated but effective means of flood control.
Who made this decision?
No one person makes the decision to open the weir and flood the fields. It’s actually a rather complicated process. That’s a good thing.
- Water levels 3.5 miles downstream from the weir must be at least 30 feet.
- Reliable forecasts must indicate that the water will continue to rise.
- Water levels at various upstream lakes have to be considered.
Ultimately, if all the boxes are checked then the Department of Water Resources makes the call and opens the weir after publishing their intention to do so. No farmers are caught off guard or anything. The water drains mostly into fields such as rice paddies and other row crops that can handle a little extra water. That doesn’t mean crops aren’t damaged, but the damage isn’t as severe as it would be with more fragile crops.
And even with all this water, California is still technically in a drought. They have a long way to go.