Merced County leaders reflect on reasons for flooding

Alyssa Flores Image
Wednesday, January 25, 2023
Merced County leaders reflect on reasons for flooding
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As the recovery continues from devastating floods in Merced County local leaders are reflecting on what went wrong and what went right.

MERCED COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- As the recovery continues from devastating floods in Merced County, local leaders are reflecting on what went wrong and what went right.

Merced County supervisors say the reason why waterways flooded and levees didn't hold up is a problem years in the making.

"Fish and wildlife has held up our permitting process," said Merced County Supervisor Daron McDaniel. "We are not allowed to clean our creeks and that is why we have flooding in Merced County."

The County is responsible for cleaning waterways including Miles Creek and Bear Creek. But they say they need permits from California Fish and Wildlife before they can touch the growth inside the creek. Brush and trees clog up the creeks and create currents that erode and break levees.

"The last time that we cleaned or did any work on a lot of these streams, creeks is with the 2017 floods," said Merced County Supervisor Scott Silveria. "When we were under the emergency then we were able to go in and clean some of them. And to my knowledge they have not been cleaned since then."

Silveria says he spoke to Governor Gavin Newsom when he visited Planada about the holdup in permitting.

"He was receptive to it and understood and kind of mentioned that it's something he and his admin need to work on," said Silveria.

According to Merced County Fire, over 500 residences and 40 commercial structures were impacted by flooding. There were 4,000 people under a mandatory evacuation order in Planada.

"It is 9 miles away but sometimes it feels like 900. So please do not forget about us," one Planada resident pleaded to the board.

Some Planada residents like her worry if the right resources aren't offered, people might not come back

"If we don't pay attention to it, it's going to affect our community for generations. Please we can't leave those people alone because we need them to be there," she said. "We cannot lose anybody in the Planada community. It's too small for that."

At the Merced County Fairgrounds, the disaster recovery center continues to offer federal, state and local help to people from 7 am to 7 pm. With wet weather in the forecast soon North Valley there's more urgency to get people taken care of.

"Making sure that we are dealing with the aftermath of the first floods," said Silveria. "Praying and hoping that we don't have second ones but being ready in case we have to go back to work."

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