Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Sacramento Flooding Part Eighteen

This story from the Sunday’s Bee, their continuing series on flooding, Tempting Fate, should be headlined; “Disneyland gets flood protection before the state capitol does!” but the real story is how effective the local representation of the folks down south is, who came to agreement on their policy and then got the funds to implement it.

As the major city most liable to flooding in the country, Sacramento still awaits that kind of effective, consensus-building leadership, and your blogger wonders if protecting the public from the single most possible disaster that may befall it is a good campaign issue for any potential new leadership out there?

Here is an excerpt.

Tempting fate: Anti-flood funding awash in politics

South state's unity has aided safety projects while capital region struggles.
By Deb Kollars -- Bee Staff Writer Published 2:15 am PST Sunday, February 12, 2006

For many years, the Santa Ana River running through Southern California was known as the most dangerous watershed west of the Mississippi. Its flash floods were legendary and brutal, threatening a rich band of real estate running through the heart of Orange County.

Today, this land of citrus and subdivisions is becoming far safer, thanks to a $1.4 billion package of flood control fixes on the Santa Ana, including a new dam in the San Bernardino Mountains.

When the job is finished, it will leave a sharp imbalance in the state:
Disneyland will have twice the flood protection of the Capitol of California.

The Santa Ana project, paid mostly with federal dollars, will be done within five years. It will provide cities from Anaheim to Huntington Beach protection against rare but dangerous storms that have about a one-in-200 chance of occurring every year.

Meanwhile, Sacramento will continue to carry the distinction of having the greatest flood risk of any major city in the nation. Some neighborhoods don't even have 100-year protection.

Solid plans are in motion to reach the 200-year threshold by making changes at Folsom Dam and strengthening levees.

But hurdles as wide as rivers remain, including securing the $1 billion, or more, it will cost. It will be 15 years, by most accounts, before Sacramento has a safety cushion on the Sacramento and American rivers akin to that on the Santa Ana.

"There is a tremendous amount of more work that needs to be done," said Jason Fanselau, chief of public affairs for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento district. "We're still right at that bare minimum of flood protection."

Members of Sacramento's congressional delegation, amid numerous inquiries, were defensive when asked about north-south safety comparisons. You're talking about different rivers, different landscapes, different times, different players, their representatives insisted.

The staff members, instead, wanted to talk about how hard their bosses have worked to get flood protection dollars during difficult times in Washington.

Adriana Surfas, for example, who spoke to The Bee on behalf of Democratic Rep. Doris Matsui, pointed out that in California, Sacramento received the third highest water-related allocation from Congress in 2006 at $29.96 million. (The Santa Ana River project was first in line at $61.65 million. The Oakland Harbor was second at $48 million.)

On its face, the $29.96 million sounds like a lot. And things would seem to look even better for next year: Last week, President Bush earmarked $46.8 million in his proposed 2007 federal budget for flood improvements on the American River.

But it is a long way from covering the $1 billion or more needed to get Sacramento to the 200-year goal, said Fanselau and others."

Or the several billion to get Sacramento to the 500 year level, and yet, even at that higher figure, still only about 10% of Sacramento County's annual budget.