Huffman Introduces Bill to Modernize Army Corps of Engineers Reservoir Operations

February 04, 2014

WASHINGTON­—Responding to the record drought in California and the need to improve long-term water planning, Congressman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) today introduced a bill to bring Army Corps reservoir operations in line with modern science, save water, and help communities through extreme weather events, like droughts. The Army Corps of Engineers operates many of its reservoirs—critical for the water supply of cities and towns throughout the country—on outdated and obsolete water control manuals, some of which are as much as 60 years old. Huffman’s bill, the Fixing Operations of Reservoirs to Encompass Climatic and Atmospheric Science Trends Act (the FORECAST Act), would help the Corps update these manuals based on the latest atmospheric science and weather forecasting.

“2013 was California’s driest year since we started keeping records in 1849—before we were even a state—challenging everything from our water supply, food supply, fish and wildlife recovery, to recreation. In the face of droughts and other extreme weather events, our cities, farmers, and environment rely on the accurate and logical operation of our reservoirs,” Congressman Huffman said. “But it makes no sense that we are still operating our reservoirs based on obsolete 60-year-old manuals. It’s time we started using modern science and weather forecasting, and the FORECAST Act will be a critical move towards improving our reservoir operations and reducing wastage.

The FORECAST Act allows for local entities to request that the Corps review its water operations manual. A typical review process may proceed like this:

  • A local sponsor, like the Sonoma County Water Agency, requests that the Army Corps conducts a study of a reservoir and its water manual.
  • The Corps works with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency to analyze the latest and best science for understanding forecasting for flood and runoff.
  • With this information, the Corps can determine if there are better ways to operate the reservoir to meet important needs like expanded water storage, better flood control, or improved conservation efforts.
  • The Corps will then implement the new updated water manual based through its usual review process.

Huffman’s district includes several towns that are at risk of running out of water, including the towns of Healdsburg, Cloverdale and Willits that were recently named by the California Department of Public Health as vulnerable drinking water systems. Additionally, Huffman and other House Democrats also requested an emergency hearing of the House Natural Resources Committee to discuss the drought devastating western states.