Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Natomas Flood Protection, Less Than Thought? Part Three

While I agree with the subject of this Bee Editorial from last Saturday, Natomas flood danger, I don’t agree with the assumptions; that it should be “common knowledge’ among Natomas residents that their flood protection is inadequate.

According to the letters in the Bee that have appeared about this issue, it appears most residents were told that their protection did meet the level not requiring flood insurance, leading to the "common knowledge", on their part, that they need not worry about flooding.

If there is any fault to lay here, it has to be laid at the doorstep of public leaders, who are aware of the dangers of flooding, (because it is part of their job to be so and I know they are intelligent people who thoughtfully keep aware of public safety issues) but have chosen not to act on it, rather than the homeowner, who rightly accepts reassurances from public leadership that there is no problem.

We, American River Parkway Preservation Society, encountered this attitude of public leadership not wanting to face obvious problems connected to the river, when we began working to bring attention to the highly obvious problems (still occurring) associated with illegal camping in the Lower Reach of the Parkway.

The stubborn refusal of public leadership to publicly accept the level of problems occurring out there—even now after the major print media coverage since 2003—which have pretty much precluded the adjacent communities from using the Parkway safely and enjoyably, continues to confound us.

Here is an excerpt.

Editorial: Natomas: At risk
New flood study confirms old suspicions
Published 2:15 am PST Saturday, February 18, 2006

It should be common knowledge for the tens of thousands of residents in the Natomas communities of northern Sacramento that their flood protection isn't nearly what it should be.

But because of the lack of a requirement to buy flood insurance, and because so many of these residents are new to this fast-growing community, the risks aren't fully appreciated. A new and worrisome study of the Natomas levees along the Sacramento River by the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency (SAFCA) should be an alert as well as a blueprint for action.

The federal requirement to buy flood insurance does not apply to communities deemed to have a 100-year level of flood protection. In the case of Natomas, that means the levees along the Sacramento River have to hold in the event of a storm that has a 1-in-100 chance of coming any given winter.

Officially, Natomas has had this minimal level of flood protection since 1998, thanks to levee improvements. The improvements paved the way for the stunning growth that has occurred in recent years. Given the lack of a requirement to buy flood insurance, many new residents likely had no idea that they were about to live in one of the deepest flood plains in Northern California.

But in recent years flood officials have been wondering whether the 100-year level of protection is illusory. The new worry is water seeping in beneath levees (known as under-seepage, in engineer-speak), a problem exposed by the floods of 1997.