From: The Honorable Jim Costa
Sent By:
Date: 2/18/2016

DEADLINE: COB, March 8, 2016

Dear Colleague:

We invite you to join us in expressing our support for the US Army Corps of Engineers’ Water Operations Technical Support (WOTS) program. We respectfully request the Committee maintain the FY 2016 funding level of $5.5 million for this program in FY 2017.

The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) manages hundreds of reservoirs. These reservoirs provide invaluable flood control, water supply, recreation, and stream flow regulation. Recent droughts, including the devastating drought impacting our home state of California, and the extreme winter storms and flooding brought by El Nino, highlight the need for the Corps to access the latest weather and seasonal forecasting observations, which may offer the opportunity for improved reservoir operations, thereby increasing water supply while maintaining critical flood control.

USACE manage reservoirs via Water Control Plans and Reservoir Regulation Schedules. The Corps has the existing authority to review and update these plans and schedules. Unfortunately, funding to assess how new research and observations could improve reservoir operations is scarce and existing manuals do not currently incorporate advances in weather forecasting and scientific observations of recent decades.

Research over the past decade has revealed that up to half of the annual precipitation in California results from extreme “atmospheric river” (AR) storms that occur several times per year, on average. When an AR-type storm is strong, long-lasting and strikes already-wet areas, they are the cause of most major flooding in the region. Current dam operations to mitigate flood risks may not be properly tailored to take advantage of the emerging science and predictions of landfalling atmospheric rivers. One shortfall in USACE dam operations, as well as dam safety evaluations, lies in predicting, understanding, and utilizing sequences of rainfall events such as those generated by ARs. Continued funding is needed to evaluate and improve the predictive skill of AR models, demonstrate the application of AR prediction to advanced hydrologic simulators, and apply management science principles to evaluate reservoir operation alternatives to buffer extreme variations in seasonal hydrology.

Informed, more efficient use of existing water infrastructure benefits all users. Advanced weather forecasts have the potential to inform dam operations, increase the effectiveness of our water storage systems, and achieve positive impacts across the West.

If you have any questions and/or would like to sign on, please contact in Rep. Costa’s office or in Rep. Huffman’s office. The deadline to sign on is close of business on Tuesday, March 8.




Jim Costa                                                                    Jared Huffman

                                                            March __, 2016

The Honorable Harold D. Rogers                                The Honorable Nita Lowey

Chairman                                                                  Ranking Member

Committee on Appropriations                                      Committee on Appropriations

U.S. House of Representatives                                   U.S. House of Representatives

Washington, DC 20515                                               Washington, DC 20515


The Honorable Mike Simpson                                     The Honorable Marcy Kaptur

Chairman                                                                  Ranking Member

Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee               Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee

on Energy and Water Development                             on Energy and Water Development

Washington, D.C. 20515                                             Washington, D.C. 20515


Dear Chairman Rogers, Ranking Member Lowey, Chairman Simpson and Ranking Member Kaptur:


We write to express our support for the US Army Corps of Engineers’ Water Operations Technical Support (WOTS) program within Operations and Maintenance, Flood Risk Management. We respectfully request that the Committee continue the FY 2016 funding level of $5.5 million for the program in FY 2017.


Dry summers and extreme winter rainfall in the western United States call for maximum water storage while maintaining flood control protections. By developing tools and techniques to incorporate better forecasts of extreme rainfall events into their management processes, water managers may be able to retain water that they would otherwise be needlessly released—resulting in cost savings and a more reliable water supply, while still preserving, and possibly enhancing, flood control capabilities.


The tools that the Army Corps of Engineers currently uses to manage dams for flood control are largely based on long-term averages of winter storms and spring runoff. Recent advances have found that up to half of California’s total annual precipitation, and almost all of its flooding, are caused by sporadic, extreme atmospheric river (AR) rain events. The conclusion is clear; that an entire water year, and the risk of flooding or drought, may hinge on a few of these AR storms. Too few, and drought develops. Too many ARs, capped by one that is too strong, can lead to historically damaging floods. Atmospheric rivers show promise of being predictable enough several days before landfall to potentially use this information in flood control and water management models. With this new information, it has become clear that traditional dam operations to mitigate flood risks, which are based on long-term averages of precipitation, may not be properly tailored to address the flood risks themselves, which are sporadic and intense in nature.


Atmospheric river forecasts should be tailored for water managers and incorporated into dam management to allow for safe and efficient control reservoir levels, while also bolstering water supply reliability for downstream beneficial uses. Continued funding of $5.5 million is needed for the WOTS program to meet this need.


With record drought impacting large portions of the country and recent extreme rain and flooding events, we cannot afford to let our reservoir management practices lag behind our scientific understanding and need to support focused advances supporting the specific needs of water managers in the region. Thank you for your consideration of this request, and for your recognition of the role of science and technology in enhancing the management of our nation’s water supply.