Since establishment in 1959, Yuba Water Agency has worked to build projects, like the New Bullards Bar Dam and Reservoir, to reduce the risk of flooding in Yuba County. Yuba Water Agency continually seeks to implement other, non-structural measures to improve public safety, such as agency and technology development. One successful example of this recent work is the implementation of Forecast-Coordinated Operations (F-CO).
After a devastating flood in 1997, Yuba Water Agency initiated studies directed toward developing a high level of flood protection for Yuba County and the surrounding communities.
Through improved data gathering, real-time information exchange, and utilization of the most recent advancements for weather and river forecasting, the F-CO helps minimize the risk of exceeding river channel capacity and increases warning times – when needed – to the communities along the Yuba and Feather Rivers and downstream.
The development and implementation of the F-CO is a multi-agency partnership effort. The participating agencies – Yuba Water Agency; the State Department of Water Resources; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Weather Service-River Forecast Center; and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – have a history of working together to prepare flood-related information, to operate and maintain the control structures and to serve the public during flood emergencies. They have established procedures, protocols and infrastructure for exchanging and sharing flood information, which will be enhanced by the F-CO program.
Lake Oroville is operated by the Department of Water Resources and has a flood storage capacity of 750,000 acre-feet. New Bullards Bar Reservoir has a flood capacity of 170,000 acre-feet. The key to improving flood protection is the coordination of these operations during major flood events through a decision process that uses the most accurate forecast information that can be obtained, including estimates of flood forecast uncertainty.
The coordinated operations of the reservoirs facilitate early and timely releases of flood flows from Lake Oroville and New Bullards Bar Reservoir with the goal of reducing peak flows on the Feather and Yuba rivers, and downstream. This will additionally provide regional flood control benefits.
The coordinated operations program also improves notification processes and provides better river stage forecast data to downstream emergency operation managers, state and local Office of Emergency Services, and levee districts.
The improved flood forecasting of Yuba and Feather River flows will allow water managers to operate the reservoirs in advance of major flood events with an improved level of certainty, which results in reduced peak river flows. To improve flood forecasting, additional gaging stations will be installed to collect real-time rainfall, snow and streamflow data in the Yuba and Feather River basins. Flood forecasting models will be upgraded to incorporate the additional real-time data and weather forecasts. Probabilistic information defining certainty in reservoir inflow forecasts will be available to reservoir operators to aid with decision-making. Sophisticated reservoir simulation and routing models will be developed to guide operation of the reservoirs and to forecast flows at downstream points.