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Lower San Joaquin River Flood Control Project

District History and Purpose

    A brief history of the San Joaquin River is necessary to understand the Levee District’s purpose.  The San Joaquin River and its tributaries have historically caused flood problems which have been a threat to life and property.  Flooding problems have been lessened, but not eliminated.  This has occurred through the activities of federal, state and local governments, and most importantly, the sacrifices and efforts of the landowners affected by the river.

    Completion and operation of Friant Dam in 1947 reduced flow volumes, but contributed to a major sedimentation problem in the river.  Reservoir operations have reduced peak flows which previously transported much of the sediment downstream, thereby maintaining high channel capacity.  Sediment buildup has reduced the river's flow capacity and increased the potential for flooding and erosion problems.  Sedimentation has also led to vegetation encroachment within the San Joaquin, which further accelerates channel constriction.  Subsequent flood flows are impeded and rise to higher stages due to these constrictions.

    Addressing these problems took many years of planning, engineering and public hearings, before the Lower San Joaquin River Flood Control Project plan was approved.  The Lower San Joaquin Levee District was created by the State Legislature in 1955.  Its purpose, in part, is to operate, maintain and repair levees, bypasses, channels, control structures, and other facilities in connection with the Lower San Joaquin River Flood Control Project.  Also, the Levee District’s function is to ensure that the benefits of the project, paid for by the taxpayers, are not lost and to provide protection to the people and the property for whom this project was designed.

    The project was designed and constructed by the State Department of Water Resources between 1959 and 1966.  The project's purpose is to provide flood protection along the San Joaquin River and tributaries in Merced, Madera, and Fresno Counties.  The plan  covers 108 river miles, contains 191.5 miles of levees and protects over 300,000 acres.  The project is a series of bypasses built to collect San Joaquin flood flows, as well as floodwater from the Kings River system.  The bypasses divert flows around stretches of the San Joaquin where constrictions impaired its capacity.  The Levee District, in accordance with its agreement with the State Reclamation Board (this agency is now called the Central Valley Flood Protection Board), is obligated to maintain not only the bypasses, but the channel of the San Joaquin River within the project, in a condition where the channel will carry flood flows in accordance with the maximum benefits for flood protection.  
    The flood protection results have been of immeasurable value to the benefitting landowners.  The Levee District Board and staff takes pride in its efficient operation.  The District operates with an unpaid board, minimal staff, with no investment in real property, and only the absolute necessities in equipment.  While this has been accomplished to some extent only through the cooperation of landowners and other agencies in the District's area in times of emergencies, it also reflects the philosophy of the District Board, which is to provide the best flood protection with minimal funds. The District landowners are the only ones who pay for the maintenance of the river and flood protection within this project.


Lower San Joaquin River Flood Control Project - Original Dedication Oct 6, 1966

Lower San Joaquin River Flood Control Project - Dedication 10-6-1966.pdf

 LSJLD Benefit Assessment Boundary KMZ file