The Rutherford Report: Fontana Flood Control Project Underway

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“The single raindrop never feels responsible
for the flood.”

—Douglas Adams
Fontana Flood Control Project Underway

Last month, we broke ground on a long overdue revamp of the West Fontana Channel.

Today, this three-mile flood channel is a dirt ditch with strategically placed rocks to impede erosion. It was created in the 1970s after the County of San Bernardino got serious about flood control following the devastating flooding that occurred in 1969.

But unlike Day Creek, San Sevaine and other flood control facilities, the West Fontana Channel was never fortified with concrete to ensure it could handle all of the fast-moving runoff it gets inundated with after heavy storms.

Over the years, flood water flowing in the undersized and underdeveloped channel has spilled over causing damage to nearby properties and infrastructure. Once, Metrolink temporarily halted service when erosion undermined railroad tracks in Fontana.

The West Fontana Channel improvements were set to get underway in 2007 but litigation issues involving the Flood Control District, which collects property taxes to pay for flood control improvements, got in the way.

Then the recession caused home values to plummet, siphoning even more money from the District’s coffers.

After I was elected in 2010, I made it my goal to settle the legal issue hanging over the the Flood Control District’s head so it wasn’t spending millions of dollars on attorney fees.

In the meantime, the City of Fontana offered to transfer $10 million from a State grant to the West Fontana Channel project and property values rose, helping shore up the District’s finances. The City also provided another $2 million from its capital improvement program budget to fund a storm drain that will connect into the channel to alleviate flooding at Orange Way and Cypress Avenue.

Flood control facilities aren’t very exciting public works projects especially since they are usually empty most of the year, but when an atmospheric river saturates our communities with rain, those channels help keep our roads open and protect thousands of homes and businesses (as well as people) from dangerous flooding.

Once the West Fontana Channel is transformed into a modern, concrete-lined flood control facility, it will handle 41,000 gallons (or more than twice the amount of water in an average in-ground swimming pool) every second. The project will also serve to clean up storm water runoff via a “bio swale” which consists of rock lined and naturally landscaped areas. The bio swale and will also provide groundwater recharge by sinking storm water into the ground.

The channel will provide flood protection for more than 2,500 parcels. The County will work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to update its flood maps so those property owners don’t have to spend tens of thousands of dollars ever year on flood insurance.

In addition, the City of Fontana will be able to connect storm drains to the completed channel, helping alleviate roadway flooding.

The project’s total cost is about $75 million, and District expects to complete it by the summer of 2020. You can find more information about the County’s Flood Control Operations, including guides on how to protect your property, by clicking here here.
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