Sunday, December 03, 2006

Public Leadership & Flood Protection Policy

While agreeing that sound flood protection policy needs to be front and center on public leadership’s radar, the minimum standard shouldn’t be the end of that policy.

Public leadership in California up to the mid 1900’s understood the danger of flooding in the Valley and engineered Shasta Dam to be 200 feet higher than it is now (which would have tripled its water storage capacity) and approved the building of Auburn Dam.

Had those two projects been completed as planned we would not be in the situation of having to accept the minimal standard of protection for our families today.

So yes, do the planning to erect at least the minimum flood protection (100 year level) but include in that a 20 year plan to provide the gold standard of flood protection (500 year level) for Sacramento.

Editorial: The state chimes in with some advice on floods
- Published 12:00 am PST Sunday, December 3, 2006

For most of this year, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his aides sat on the sidelines while lawmakers debated the thorny issue of new development in deep floodplains. Partly because of their inaction, lawmakers failed to pass a package of bills that, among other things, would have ensured that new homes built in floodplains were protected by levees that met a reasonable standard.

In a post-Katrina world, this would seem to be common sense stuff, but for reasons unclear -- possibly the large contributions delivered by the Building Industry Association -- legislative leaders and the governor allowed the flood package to die. This failure of leadership marred an otherwise impressive record on upgrading flood control. Now, however, the governor is rectifying some of his missteps.

On Nov. 21, the governor's water resources director, Lester Snow, sent a quiet bombshell to Sacramento Mayor Heather Fargo and other elected leaders who have jurisdiction over the Natomas basin, where thousands of more homes are in the works.

The letter noted that, as outlined in recent studies, Natomas lacks 100-year flood protection. It noted that Sacramento is working hard to upgrade these levees, and that the state is working with the region's flood agency to quickly patch up the weakest levee sections.

Then came the bombshell:

"It is prudent to consider additional local efforts to protect the public...including:

• Limitation on new construction until minimum flood protection is achieved.
• Building design requirements on any new construction related to potential depth of flooding and resident survivability.
• Special notifications of the high flood risk to first-time buyers of new homes, buyers of resale property...
• Requirements that builders provide flood insurance for new residents...
• Increased emergency response and evacuation preparation. ..."

So far, Sacramento hasn't officially replied to the administration's advice, but it should respond -- positively. When Natomas' levees were found deficient after the 1986 floods, the city suspended new residential construction and spent money on levee upgrades. It needs to do so again, while ensuring that Natomas residents are properly insured and informed of the risks.