Development of an Integrated Methodology for Assessing Integrity of Levees Protecting Natural Gas Infrastructure

Study will develop non-invasive geotechnical technology to assess the structural stability of levees protecting the Delta and the risk to natural gas infrastructure from their potential failure.

InfraTerra, Inc.


Oakland, CA

Recipient Location


Senate District


Assembly District



Amount Spent



Project Status

Project Update

The research team has been developing levee models with increasing complexity consistent with Delta region levee profiles. They are continuing to process geophysical data and have developed preliminary cross plots of electrical resistivity and seismic shear wave velocity for one field study site. This was accomplished by overlaying resistivity and velocity point-by-point and identifying soil type through a soils type database. In March of 2020 the research team conducted their first Technical Advisory Committee meeting, in which they provided current project progress and solicited feedback. Additional field work on McDonald Island, which has been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, is anticipated to resume summer and fall of 2021.

The Issue

Levees in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta were built as simple peat dikes resting on marsh soils and are therefore highly vulnerable to damage from floods, wave action, seepage, subsidence, burrowing animals, earthquakes, and sea level rise. The structural integrity of levees in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Delta) has for decades been a subject of investigations and continues to be a source of concern. This study will leverage the wealth of information from previous studies and optimize non-invasive geophysical data acquisition technologies to identify potential vulnerabilities of the natural gas infrastructure to levee failures in the Delta.

Project Innovation

The Recipient is developing a comprehensive Geographical Information System (GIS) database that includes three major data sets: geohazards, levee condition, and natural gas infrastructure. These data sets are being combined to develop a map that delineates the Delta area into distinct regions with similar cumulative susceptibility for detailed geophysical data acquisition. Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) data is used to identify and characterize the distribution of geohazards in conjunction with the database. Geophysical investigations are performed for these levees with four geophysical survey techniques to obtain complete subsurface and structural levee profiles and to develop an understanding of the most effective method(s) for identifying natural gas infrastructure vulnerabilities from the Delta levees and environment. The results of the geophysical investigation will also be validated by the GIS database and existing soil boreholes made by the Department of Water Resources. Pipeline performance modeling will be conducted to understand the vulnerabilities of the natural gas infrastructure within the Delta system.

Project Benefits

The project is identifying areas of high risk to natural gas infrastructure in the Delta and testing a minimum of four geophysical methods for assessing levee integrity. This testing is being conducted at several Delta sites and includes seismic surface wave surveying, electrical resistivity, ground penetrating radar, and electromagnetic surveying. The research team is also conducting pipeline performance modeling to understand which potential levee breaches or geohazard impacts may cause pipeline failure. Understanding the thresholds where pipelines may perform well or fail is essential for natural gas investor owned utilities to (1) prioritize mitigation locations, and (2) allocate economic and work force resources where needed.

Greater Reliability


The study is using non-invasive geotechnical technology to develop a methodology for assessing the structural stability of levees protecting the Delta. Failure of these levees may affect natural gas pipelines and storage facilities that are a critical component of the state's natural gas infrastructure, so improving our understanding of the levees' integrity will help prevent potential disruptions from levee failures and ensure greater reliability and safety.

Key Project Members

Project Member

Ozgur Kozaci



Regents of the University of California, Los Angeles


The Regents of the University of California, Berkeley Campus


California State University, East Bay


Storesund Consulting


Match Partners


InfraTerra, Inc.


Contact the Team