Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Emergency Proclamation on Levees

We couldn’t ask for a better result of the levee tours than this story from the Bee last Saturday announcing an emergency proclamation from the Governor.

An excerpt.

Levee emergency declared
Governor moves to speed repairs at critical sites.
By Deb Kollars and Matt Weiser -- Bee Staff WritersPublished 2:15 am PST Saturday, February 25, 2006

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency Friday for the Central Valley's levee system and announced plans to spend up to $100 million over the next several months to repair 24 critical erosion sites.

Many of the sites are along the Sacramento River on levees that protect urban areas of the Sacramento region, including the Pocket neighborhood. Flood leaders fear the crumbling sites could give way in a big storm.

The Republican governor made the rapid decision to declare an emergency after taking a helicopter tour Wednesday over the American and Sacramento rivers with U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and other congressional leaders.

Given the number of homes, businesses and people at risk, Schwarzenegger said, he felt a responsibility to move fast.

"I don't want to be in the situation they were in New Orleans," he said, speaking to reporters at the Republican Party convention in San Jose on Friday evening.

"Two days ago, we took a tour by helicopter to see our whole levee system. It became really clear then that we are not really responding fast enough in order to rebuild our levees."

The money will come from California's reserve fund for economic uncertainties. The emergency declaration means the state will be able to set aside state environmental and contracting regulations to hasten repair of individual erosion sites.

State and local leaders hope to complete the work before the next flood season begins in late fall, said Lester Snow, director of the state Department of Water Resources.

The department and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers identified the weak spots during boat tours of the Sacramento River system last fall. Scientists and engineers identified about 100 serious erosion sites; 24 were deemed "critical," Snow said.

The critical label means the river has eaten away at the bank, edging near the top of the levee and making failure a possibility.

"These erosion sites could actually fail the next time there is a major flood event," Snow said Friday.

The governor also plans to ask President Bush to declare a federal state of emergency, which would allow federal environmental regulations also to be set aside during site repairs.