In early 2001, after the Army Corps refused to conduct a reassessment, Boxer and Feinstein decided to intervene directly, asking the State of California to take action on Deer Creek. After prolonged pressure from the Senators, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) formed a state technical review committee on Deer Creek, charging it with determining whether the debris basin built by the Army Corps of Engineers, in fact, had the capacity to handle a flood of major proportions (i.e., a “100-year flood,” in the language of flood control engineers).
A 2002 report by the Center for Governmental Studies entitled Alluvial Amnesia: How Officials Imperil Communities by Downplaying Flood Risks , concluded that CURE’s founder and president, Malissa McKeith, played a significant role in exposing a lack of transparency and accountability on the part of the government officials involved in key decisions concerning the housing development.
In addition, in a report issued in June 2002, the DWR acknowledged that the debris basin’s capacity was substantially deficient and therefore that “flood and debris volume from a 100-year flood will exceed the current level of protection” for the cities of Rancho Cucamonga and Ontario.
CURE’s campaign, however, did lead to Governor Schwarzenegger convening the California Flood Plain Management Task Force, which visited the Deer Creek debris basin and other vulnerable floodplains at the base of Southern California’s mountains, and concluded that integrated flood management needs to include not only structural improvements, but also open-space buffer zones.
In 2003, a deadly mudslide not far from Deer Creek spurred the creation of the first-ever statewide Alluvial Fan Task Force, which is still in operation today.
Though CURE worked diligently to save the levee and protect the public, thousands of new homes were built under debris basins. Only when the economic downturn came in 2008 did construction stop. No improvements whatsoever were made to the flood control infrastructure; and no additional safeguards or disclosure requirements were put into place to protect and inform homebuyers and homeowners.