Infrastructure: Orange County Unveils Revitalized Flood Control Channel in Huntington Beach
(August 15, 2023) – Orange County is making progress on infrastructure projects that improve flood protection, protecting our ecosystems in a cost-effective and environmentally-responsible way.
“Natural disasters can happen anytime without warning, causing devastating economic and social impacts,” said Supervisor Andrew Do, Vice Chairman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors. “Orange County continues to invest our tax dollars in infrastructure improvement projects that will help prepare our county for natural disasters.”
On August 15, Supervisor Andrew joined OC Public Works staff at a press conference along the East Garden Grove-Wintersburg Channel to mark a significant milestone toward removing the largest remaining floodplain in Orange County.
“Over the past sixteen years, I have worked closely with our OC Public Work staff, project partners, and local Congressional delegation in Washington D.C. to bring more tax dollars for projects in Orange County,” said Supervisor Andrew Do. “We are grateful to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for their continuous support.”
The East Garden Grove-Wintersburg Channel project transformed a section of the channel from Warner Avenue near Springdale Street to Goldenwest Street in Huntington Beach. Work began in 2020 and was officially completed in March 2023. The channel was transformed from its former trapezoid shape with sloped sides into a rectangular channel with vertical sides, increasing channel capacity for controlling stormwater. Figure 1 shows a before and after photo of the channel.
“As design requirements have evolved and changed, flood control channels of today are required to effectively handle a greater amount of water,” said James Treadaway, OC Public Works Director. “We are delivering these infrastructure projects as safely, quickly, and cost-efficiently as possible to bring the County’s flood control channels up to today’s standards and protect our neighboring homes and businesses.”
Flood Control in Orange County
In the 1930s, several flood control projects were underway in Orange County, resulting in several dams. It wasn’t until the 1960s that existing channels were completed. Over the years, there have been several improvement projects. The most recent being the East Garden Grove-Wintersburg Channel project.
In 2017, the County of Orange and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sponsored the Westminster Watershed feasibility Study to investigate alternatives for flood risk reduction, secure federal funding, and integrate resources for completing all of the needed flood control improvements in the watershed.
The Westminster watershed, as seen in Figure 2, is approximately 74 square miles and includes portions of Anaheim, Stanton, Cypress, Garden Grove, Westminster, Fountain Valley, Los Alamitos, Seal Beach, and Huntington Beach. All the channels within the watershed collect local stormwater runoff and vary in size, geometry, and lining.
The watershed study particularly focused on the downstream end of the channel systems, where there is a higher risk to critical habitats for endangered and threatened species in the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve.
The following year, OC Public Works and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hosted public meetings to inform residents and property owners along the area.
The overall completion of flood control improvements, which includes several upcoming projects along other sections of the channel, as seen in Figure 3, will help remove the largest remaining floodplain in Orange County.
Orange County Floodplain Impacts Flood Insurance for Property Owners
Orange County’s project comes at the right time, helping offset recent record rainfall amounts in Southern California. These flood control improvements help reduce risk of flood-related property damage for surrounding neighborhoods.
The County of Orange participates in FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program and Community Rating System. Nationwide, over 22,300 communities participate in the program. Depending on the level of the activities performed by local jurisdictions, property owners are eligible to receive a discount in flood insurance premiums each year.
The continuous implementation of the County’s Floodplain Management Plan, through construction and maintenance projects, has helped homeowners become eligible to receive discounts in flood insurance premiums each year. This project and future projects that are planned will help enable others to become eligible as well.
“Flood improvement projects have an impact on everyone, not just those living along flood channels,” said Supervisor Andrew Do. “Orange County’s Public Works staff have done a tremendous job executed on our plan for improvements to local infrastructure.”
Orange County Supervisor Andrew Do represents the First District communities of Cypress, Fountain Valley, Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, Los Alamitos, La Palma, Seal Beach, Westminster, and the Unincorporated Communities of Midway City and Rossmoor. As Supervisor, Andrew Do has reformed Orange County’s mental health services, expanded access to health care, and led efforts to combat homelessness.