Gary Bardini, P.E., Director of Planning for the Sacramento Flood Control Agency

Public Caucus

Gary Bardini

Educational background

Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo. I’m also a Licensed Civil Engineer.

Professional experience

35 years of public service with the State of California and the Sacramento area providing strategic planning, policy development and engineering services to promote integrated and sustainable management of the state’s water resources. At SAFCA, I direct the formulation, refinement, coordination and policy administration for SAFCA’s strategic and project-level planning initiatives. Prior to working for SACFA, I served as the Integrated Water Management Deputy Director for the California Department of Water Resources.

Favorite work-related project so far 

At Folsom Reservoir, the completed auxiliary spillway alleviated dam safety concerns and provided needed release capacity to safely implement conditional storage under Forecast Informed Reservoir Operations (FIRO). The associated 2019 water control manual update lowered the intuitional barriers previously inhibiting a formalized FIRO operation.

FIRO as the future of flood operation is well recognized. The recent technology advancement in weather forecasting and improved understanding of atmospheric river phenomena as related to flood events in California have increased flood forecast skills for both volume and timing. Reliable seven- to ten-day-ahead forecasts are already achievable. This creates opportunities to refine reservoir operation to allow additional conditional storage in flood control space to increase water supply and environmental benefits. The recently completed Lake Mendocino FIRO Viability Analysis demonstrates the maturity of such a 21st-Century practice.

History with the Water Forum

Co-partner with the Water Forum on the Lower American River Task Force (LARTF) focuses on flood, environmental, and recreational management issues affecting the lower reach of the American River from Folsom Dam to the Sacramento River. In 2002, Task Force participants collaborated in preparing the Lower American River Corridor Management Plan (RCMP) to successfully provide a framework for integrated management of this reach of the river. Recent issues addressed by the Task Force include U.S. Army Corps bank protection upgrades, the Natural Resource Management Plan, the update of the Folsom Dam Water Control Manual.

Why it is important to be involved in the Water Forum

Over the past 30 years, SAFCA has completed various projects to reduce flood risks for the Sacramento area. One of the remaining programs needed to reach SAFCA’s goal of 500-year flood protection are completion of American River bank protection projects and implementation of the American River Multi-Objective Forecast-Informed Reservoir Operations (FIRO) Program. SAFCA’s involvement with the Water Forum is critical to the success of these initiatives.

Most valuable lesson learned (or advice) when it comes to coming to agreement

Continue to balance future water needs with environmental protection that build on these existing regional and multi-agency-specific efforts. Water agencies in the American River Basin continue coordinated planning efforts to improve flood risk reduction and regional water supply reliability such as the North American Basin Regional Drought Contingency Plan, update to the American River Basin Integrated Regional Water Management Plan, and the Regional Water Reliability Plan.

What’s unique about the American River region

The lower American River is the only urban waterway to be designated a “Wild and Scenic River” by state and federal governments. Nearly 5 million people each year to enjoy its unique ecological resources and recreational opportunities. With 43 species of fish, including endangered steelhead trout and Chinook salmon, the river also provides important habitat for the anadromous fisheries of the Sacramento River Basin. It is also home to a rich diversity of wildlife and waterfowl. The City of Sacramento and adjacent metropolitan areas comprise the largest growth area in northern California in the past two decades.

Favorite location and/or activity on the lower American River

Rafting down the river and observing the surrounding natural environment.

Secret talent

No secret talents. Just a promoter of better integrated water management.

Personal motto

Take risks.