Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Building in Flood Plains

At some point the question needs to be raised: Why do we still have flood plains?

Most other major river cities have protected themselves at the 500 year level, yet after over 150 years of existence Sacramento still has the lowest level of flood protection of any major city in the country and at some point public leadership should commit to providing flood protection at those generally accepted levels.

We now have a price tag for 500 year protection and it is $10 billion, the latest cost estimate to build the Auburn Dam, and it should remain on the table as the only option so far able to do that.

Editorial: Sanity in flood plans
Why allow new homes behind suspect levees?
Published 12:00 am PDT Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Assemblywoman Lois Wolk, D-Davis, is still fighting the good fight for a state law to discourage development in parts of the Central Valley that lack adequate flood protection.

Since Hurricane Katrina swamped New Orleans, Wolk has argued that California cities and counties shouldn't be approving new homes in deep floodplains if their levees can't meet a certain standard. It's a basic public safety issue and a financial imperative. After all, courts have found California liable when a government levee fails in the Central Valley.

Facing opposition from the building industry, Wolk's legislation died in the Senate last session. This year, she is back with Assembly Bill 5, which faces a test today in the Assembly Local Government Committee. The bill is a work in progress, but with the right combination of amendments, it could become a much-needed vehicle for a saner flood control policy.

As now written, it would encourage Central Valley cities and counties to assess their levees' safety, as Sacramento has, and create local plans for upgrading the levees and ensuring an adequate emergency response. Cities and counties that developed such plans would have priority in receiving money from flood-control bonds.

Those who fail to develop such plans would be restricted from building in floodplains, starting in 2011, if their levees lacked a certain standard of flood protection.