California Town Weighs Cost of Flood Protection
by Tamara Keith
Morning Edition, February 21, 2007 •
North of Sacramento, Calif., there are vast tracts of housing developments on agricultural land, surrounded by rivers and protected by levees. Many of the homeowners who bought there in recent years are finding out that their homes may not be as safe as they thought.
A few decades ago the neighborhood of Natomas was all rice fields surrounded by massive rivers. Now it's urban, with 80,000 residents, chain restaurants and subdivisions for miles. And the Federal Emergency Management Agency is now in the process of reclassifying the neighborhood as a Special Flood Hazard Area.
Standing on a levee overlooking a sea of rooftops, John Hess of the Army Corps of Engineers said new studies have found the levees here are more vulnerable than originally thought.
"It's a deep basin, meaning flood waters — should they get into the Natomas area — could be up to 25 feet deep on the southern end," Hess said. "If there were the breach of a levee there's going to be a lot of water going into this area."
Alex Dewey and his family live in Natomas, in a house with a giant American flag out front.
"Right now I don't trust the city of Sacramento," Dewey said. "I don't trust them at all."
Dewey said he can't understand why the city would allow so many homes to be built in an area at risk of flooding. And he said he didn't learn about the risk until six months ago, when news spread that the Army Corps was pulling its certification of the levees.