Challenges with multi-benefit projects
At the March 2015 meeting of the Projects and Resources Committee (PARC) meeting, a panel representing three major projects along the Sacramento River gave interesting presentations and answered questions. The projects all have received much study and widespread public support. The panel gave an overview of each project with the purpose of addressing the following question:
If multi-benefit projects offer such incredible benefits, why is it so challenging to bring them to implementation?
The definition of a multi-benefit project varies among different organizations, but they essentially provide flood risk reduction while also benefitting the ecosystem, water quality, recreation and other aspects of the river system. The Forum invited speakers to the PARC meeting that are involved with three multi-benefit projects:
- Hamilton City Flood Damage Reduction and Ecosystem Restoration Project
- Kopta Slough Flood Damage Reduction and Habitat Restoration Project
- Riparian Sanctuary/PCGID Fish Screen
We'd like to thank Mark Cowan (USACE), Jose Puente (Hamilton City CSD and RD 2140), Aric Lester (DWR), Supervisor Burt Bundy (Tehama County), Michael Rogner (River Partners) and John Garner (Princeton-Codora-Glenn Irrigation District) for taking time to provide their perspectives on the challenges faced by multi-benefit projects.
The identified challenges are:
- The projects take a long time; twenty years is not unusual.
- Flood projects are a challenge to fund through the federal government, especially for small communities with few economic resources.
- The multi-benefit policy of the USACE is relatively new, with few projects having successfully utilized it.
- Multi-benefit projects require a breadth of technical expertise.
- Once federal funding is in place, implementing these projects needs to proceed expeditiously.
- The potential and analysis of hydraulic change associated with multi-benefit projects can be challenging, especially if agencies look for assumption of liability from project proponents.
- Multiple benefits requires the coordination of multiple agencies with different missions. With the distinct process and regulations of each agency, working together can be a challenge.
- Using a multi-benefit project for mitigation can produce challenges from the extended time frame for the projects and the need to match mitigation timing to impact timing.
Any of these challenges on its own can derail or delay a project. Combine them and it becomes clear why twenty years can typify the lifespan of a multi-benefit project. The Forum's PARC will discuss these challenges further at its next meeting, with a brainstorming session devoted to exploring the challenges and their potential solutions.
For more information on the presentations to the PARC, you can access the March meeting notes and PowerPoints here: