Flood Control Project Process

Around the turn of the 20th century, farming interest began development of the land today known as Orange County. Farms and factories were soon established and as farming intensified and prospered, a better drainage system was required. The Orange County Board of Supervisors formed several “drainage districts”. Eventually the drainage districts merged and the Orange County Flood Control District (OCFCD), was established May 23rd, 1927 under authorization of the Orange County Flood Control Act. The state statute was created to provide control of flood and storm waters of the district and streams flowing into the district (such as: the Santa Ana River, San Juan Creek, East Garden Grove-Wintersburg Channel and Santa Ana Delhi Channel); to mitigate the effects of tides and waves; and to protect the harbors, waterways, public highways and property in the district from such waterways.

Channel under construction1It is the mission of the Orange County Flood Control District to “protect Orange County areas from the threat and damage of flooding”.

During the 1950’s and 1960’s and fueled by the “Baby Boomers”, urban sprawl began and suburbs were developed over agricultural fields. The infrastructure of drainage ditches once used for agriculture now needed improvement to the level of, flood control channels.

In 1968, the US Congress created the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The criterion was established to provide 100-year flood protection. In 1972, the first Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) was distributed; a majority of Orange County was in a flood zone. Since the creation of NFIP, OCFCD goal is to completely reduce the floodplain within OCFCD infrastructure by constructing flood control channels that convey 100-year flood protection, constructing retarding basins, pump stations and dams throughout the County. Over several decades, OCFCD has reduced and removed several homes from the floodplains. Channel under construction2OCFCD continues to remove more floodplains.

Hydrologic and hydraulic data are obtained for specific floodplains; these floodplains are analyzed for elimination or reduction to containment within the flood control facility. Strategic planning, including preliminary engineering analysis and engineering reports, for the construction of channel segments for entire channel systems is developed; these channel segments are at the infancy stage of becoming a project.

Projects are nominated before the City Engineers Flood Control Advisory Committee (CEFCAC). The committee composed of the OCFCD and cities decide the best deployment of money and manpower to accomplish conservation of water and protection of existing public and private property from floods.

Selected projects are slated into the Flood Control Project Seven-Year Plan. Projects slated in the first two years of the plan are in the design process; hydrologic data is finalized, Channel under construction3 hydraulic runs analyzed, structure is calculated, plans are drafted, regulatory permits and right-of-way are sought out, and utility conflicts are ironed out. When all these items are completed or obtained, the project is advertised for construction. Several prospective contractors will place a bid for the project; only the lowest bid will be awarded the construction contract. Once the apparent lowest bid contractor is awarded the construction contract, the project moves into construction stage. The final stage of a project occurs at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Projects are planned and anticipated for completion; however, projects are subject to change due to a number of factors such as: changes in priority, shortage of resources, shortage of public support, lengthy right-of-way negotiations and lengthy mitigation negotiations with regulatory agencies. Some projects are ready for the design stage; other projects need more information, hydraulic studies, floodplain studies, land acquisition, regulatory permits, and utility conflicts.

Channel under construction4

Channel projects which do not go through CEFCAC are sometimes designed and constructed by developers. The County of Orange does not permit building in a floodplain. Developers at times will remove a floodplain to develop their tentative tract/parcel maps of homes and commercial buildings. The developers provide hydrologic and hydraulic data for the County to review. The developer also files a Letter of Map Revision (LOMR) with FEMA to remove the floodplain.

Tentative tract/parcel maps within incorporated areas are processed by the respective cities. To ensure the benefit of developer participation in right-of-way dedication and construction of flood control facilities, cities should include appropriate requirements in Conditions of Approval for tract/parcel maps. Cities are requested to send all tentative tract/parcel maps adjacent to OCFCD facilities to OC Public Works for review and comment.

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