Oakland, Calif. – The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has granted $4 million to the San Bernardino County Flood Control District to improve sections of the Rialto flood control channel in southern San Bernardino County. The upgraded channel and two retrofitted storm water detention basins will reduce flood risk by containing peak floodwaters from the San Gabriel Mountains and safely direct them toward the Santa Ana River.
Sections of the channel downstream from the detention basins flood regularly, even after moderate rain events. The 25 square mile flood-prone area is now 85% developed with residential, commercial, and industrial properties. Critical transportation routes that cross the channel are also at risk, including Interstate Highway 10 and 210, Metro Link, and the Southern Pacific Railroad.
The county has a history of flooding, too. In Feb. 2005, a federal disaster was declared in San Bernardino County and seven surrounding counties after severe storms, flooding, debris flows, and mudslides devastated the area. Damage was so severe that San Bernardino County received $20.3 million in FEMA Public Assistance grants for the cost of disaster-related debris removal, emergency protective measures to protect life and property, and permanent repair work to damaged or destroyed infrastructure.
The 2020 project will make significant improvements to two elements of the existing flood control system: the Cactus detention basins and Rialto Channel. With seismic reinforcement, regrading, and compaction of the two Cactus basins, peak storm water flows will be safely detained before passing over to the reinforced Rialto Channel to the Santa Ana River.
The $7.1 million project will be funded by a $4 million Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM) grant from FEMA, with non-federal sources covering the remaining $3.1 million.
FEMA’s PDM grant program helps states, territories, federally-recognized tribes, local communities, and certain private, non-profit organizations become more resilient to potential infrastructure damage and reduce future disaster costs. In the past 30 years, FEMA has invested nearly $1.3 billion to reduce disaster risks in California.