Tim Washburn
Tim Washburn

Timothy N. Washburn

Special Recognition Award

Below is the text found on the Special Recognition Award presented to Tim Washburn at the 2019 California Extreme Precipitation Symposium held at the University of California, Davis on June 25, 2019.

Special Recognition Award

Presented To

Timothy N. Washburn

Formed in 1989, the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency has greatly reduced the Sacramento region's flood risks, and in so doing, has served as a model of intelligent, innovative solutions for other agencies nationwide. Since 1990, Tim Washburn has made enormous contributions to that success. Working tirelessly (and we mean this literally!) with SAFCA staff, consultants, and community activists, Tim has formulated and helped implement a remarkable series of projects with his ideas, mastery of flood hydrology, knack for breathing life into difficult projects, and then driving them to completion. These projects will ultimately achieve significantly higher than 200-year flood protection for the area.

Today we highlight your contributions to improving the use of weather forecasts in reservoir operations at Folsom Dam, which is now called forecast-informed reservoir operations (FIRO). Your deep understanding, creative thinking, and specific proposals for how to make improvements had a very positive influence on Federal, State, and local agencies responsible for implementing FIRO.

The journey to achieving FIRO adoption has been long and hard. We mark its start when Congress enacted the Water Resources Development Act of 1999. You were a key contributor to its content. First, Congress approved funding to construct a new gated auxiliary spillway at Folsom Dam with a sill 50 feet lower than the original spillway. This makes it possible to safely pass much larger floods than before, as well as to protect Folsom Dam from the probable maximum flood. Second, Congress directed the Corps of Engineers to update Folsom Dam's flood management plan to reflect the new operational capabilities created by the new spillway and "improved weather forecasts based on the Advanced Hydrologic Prediction System of the National Weather Service." Without your vision, this directed update would not have been included in the bill.

As with many other SAFCA projects, your vision, energy, and persistence made all the difference in advancing the understanding, acceptance, and implementation of FIRO at Folsom Dam. In 2018 FIRO became operational and now is a critical component of the flood-risk management system for the American River. With a changing climate, the importance of FIRO to enable adaption to changing water conditions will be of utmost importance.

You have long understood the potential catastrophic flood risks facing this region and have worked tirelessly to reduce those risks. On behalf of the hundreds of thousands of residents of the Sacramento region who have benefitted from your role in conceiving, advocating, and realizing flood-risk management projects to protect their lives and properties, we THANK YOU for an outstanding job.

Your career sets the "Gold Standard" for the very best in public service. With extreme appreciation, admiration, and respect for all you have contributed and accomplished, your colleagues present this award on the 25th of June 2019.

California Extreme Precipitation Symposium

At the Event

Hear the presentation:

Professional Background

In 1989 the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency (SAFCA) was created as a Joint Powers Authority for the purpose of providing local support for a comprehensive plan of flood control improvements for the Sacramento area. Tim Washburn's career with SAFCA began in 1990 by serving as Agency Counsel until 2009 when he became Director of Planning. This change enhanced his role in formulating and advocating a series of flood-risk management projects which will ultimately achieve significantly higher than 200-year flood protection for the area.

During his 27-year tenure at SAFCA, Tim has made important contributions to the following flood-risk management projects which have been constructed (or implemented), are in construction, or will soon be going to construction:

Tim is credited with spearheading the Lower American River Task Force, which has been the primary tool SAFCA uses to gain community support for its flood control work along the Lower American River.

Tim was a leader in establishing the credibility of SAFCA's environmental mandate, which has been an essential tool in accomplishing all SAFCA flood control improvements.

The concepts for the modifications to Folsom Dam by adding a new auxiliary spillway, using weather forecasts to perform reservoir operations, reoperation of Folsom Dam and Lake, and increasing the design flow along the lower American River were concepts Tim helped to develop in partnership with Joseph Countryman, P.E. of MBK Engineers and many others at SAFCA and in the private consulting and environmental communities.

Tim was one of the main drivers behind the Natomas Levee Improvement Program with his planning guidance and input on the engineering and financial elements of the plan, the assessment district formation process, the mitigation and enhancement strategy, the environmental documentation process, permitting process, and real estate acquisition.

Another notable success for Tim was the creation of a conservation easement on the Elkhorn Ranch across the river from Natomas, which preserved the rural Yolo County agricultural zone, while still improving flood protection.

Tim had a hand in generating the State and Federal legislative language needed to support SAFCA's process going forward, including Senate Bill 276, which created a State authorization for SAFCA's 200-year flood protection plan and locked in SAFCA's cost sharing ratio.

Tim has been one of the key players in developing the Regional Flood Management Plan which has support from Yolo, Solano, and Sacramento County agencies.

Even after retiring in 2017, Tim has continued working on special projects for SAFCA.

Before joining SAFCA, Tim served as a Deputy City Attorney for the City of Sacramento. He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 1983 and received his law degree from the University of California, Davis in 1986.

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