This dam safety outreach campaign is unrelated to flood insurance, and is designed to let people know they are protected by dams and that they will hear from local public safety agencies in the highly unlikely event of a dam emergency.
The construction of the dams took most of the Fresno-Clovis area out of the 100-year floodplain, which is why most property owners aren’t required to buy flood insurance. Flood insurance is normally for recurring events such as 100-year floods. Your typical property owner’s insurance would not cover dam failure. We recommend that you check with your existing insurance provider.
The dam safety campaign is not related to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) flood maps used by mortgage lenders to determine insurance requirements or flood hazards. Access the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) flood maps and information regarding the 100-year floodplain.
FMFCD operates six dams in the region, all built to control streams in eastern Fresno County. Three of these are dams in the usual sense; three are shallow flood control basins. A map of dam locations can be found here.
No, FMFCD doesn’t have jurisdiction over the San Joaquin River (controlled by Friant Dam) or the Kings River (controlled by Pine Flat Dam). Friant Dam is operated by the federal Bureau of Reclamation and Pine Flat Dam is operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. When these rivers flood, none of that water flows to Fresno and Clovis. FMFCD’s system is designed to control flooding on the foothill streams that lie between these two rivers.
We aren’t doing the dam safety outreach campaign because there is a problem with our dams. Public education on dam safety is now required for all California dam owners as a result of the Oroville Dam disaster (2017). All FMFCD dams are inspected annually by the State Division of Safety of Dams, and none of these dams have a history of malfunction.
It sounds bad, but each California dam is assigned a Risk Rating based only on the size of the population living downstream of the dam. That’s the only reason our dams get high risk ratings, because there are a lot of people living downstream of the dams. It doesn’t have anything to do with the condition or safety of the dam itself.
FMFCD and Fresno County Office of Emergency Services have had dam failure impact zones mapped for many years. FMFCD has had dam emergency procedures on the books for a long time. Following up on new requirements put in place after the Oroville Dam disaster (2017), FMFCD is now working with local, state, and federal emergency planning agencies to develop complete dam failure emergency plans for all of our dams. The plans include protocols for monitoring dams during storm events, communicating any suspected or real dam safety issues to local public safety agencies, and coordinating with the County Office of Emergency Operations, County Sheriff, and City of Fresno and Clovis police and fire departments on evacuation planning, and conducting evacuations if needed.
In the event of a dam failure, not all parts of the Fresno-Clovis area would be equally affected. There are large areas that, even under a worst-case scenario of the breach of our largest dam, would be free from flooding and provide safe areas for evacuees and the staging of emergency response and recovery efforts.
The path of flood water from a breached dam is mostly predictable, but oftentimes contrary to people’s expectations. In the event that you are requested to evacuate your neighborhood, it is essential to follow directions closely, since your direction of travel may at first seem wrong or counterintuitive.
The inundation areas are published on the FMFCD website. It is important to understand that the maps are based on computer models that use multiple assumptions about weather and land conditions, the structure of the dam, and the nature of the problem occurring at the dam. The projected inundation areas represent both generalized and extraordinarily unlikely worst-case scenarios. For example, the dam inundation projection for the Big Dry Creek Dam failure assumes that the reservoir behind the dam is completely full, even though it has never been above 40% of its capacity.
In the event of an actual threat to dam safety, you will be notified by the Fresno County Sheriff, who will work with the City of Fresno and City of Clovis police and fire departments to make sure everyone receives accurate and timely warnings and notices. The specific department you hear from will depend on where you live/where your business is located.