Thursday, December 01, 2005

Sacramento Flooding, Part Seven

Another installment in the Bee series on flooding focuses on the cost of the levee fix, which at an initial maximum figure of $12 billion is still much less than the $26 billion estimated loss, which does not account for the incalculable costs of ruined lives, that a major flood would cost Sacramento.

Clearly, it is time for public leadership to address this straight on, and however large the task appears, the public’s safety and community well-being are well worth it.

California once led the nation in infrastructure, and we certainly still have that capability, and one hopes the political will is building.

Fixing levees is huge task, experts tell lawmakers
A rough price tag is $7 billion to $12 billion, Assembly panels are advised, but the cost could easily double, too.
By Carrie Peyton Dahlberg -- Bee Staff Writer Published 2:15 am PST Thursday, December 1, 2005

It's impossible to put a solid number today on what it would cost to shore up California's levees, but the roughest guesses run well into the billions, state water officials told Assembly members Wednesday.

The $7 billion to $12 billion price tag they outlined is intended only to give lawmakers a feel for the scope of the problem, said Les Harder, acting deputy director of the state Department of Water Resources.

The true amount might run less than that - or it could easily double, he said in an interview after a joint hearing by Assembly committees on water and infrastructure.

"People are clamoring for these numbers," Harder said, but "there's very little information to justify them." It would take up to $200 million just to quantify the problem, through a massive study probing the structure of mile after mile of levees.

Harder was among more than a dozen experts in flood control, finance, land use and local government called in to help lawmakers understand what's at stake in keeping the Central Valley dry, what's gone wrong and what it will take to fix it.

In Sacramento alone, three levee breaks during a heavy, "200-year" storm would cause about $11 billion in property damage and up to $15 billion more in lost wages, taxes and other costs, according to one Water Resources scenario. Bigger floods would boost that toll.

"People are really underestimating the risk," said Sacramento Assemblyman Dave Jones.

For the rest of the story: