Friday, April 13, 2007

Flood Control

A look at part of the legislative agenda.

The tides of flood control
Thursday, April 12, 2007

THE BAD NEWS is that the frightening specter of Hurricane Katrina didn't spur the California Legislature last year to enact comprehensive reform for our creaky flood-control policies. The good news is that the few legislators who take flood control seriously are doggedly pressing ahead now with attempts to get meaningful bills passed.

It's a good thing, because it's not as if the potential for disaster has dissipated.

While the $3 billion worth of bonds that voters approved in November for levee repairs need to be spent wisely and effectively -- a task that Assemblywoman Lois Wolk, D-Davis, hopes to direct with her bill, AB5 -- what's most important is that the Legislature acts to prevent catastrophe by encouraging local governments to cease making poor land-use decisions. So we come to Assemblyman Dave Jones' bill, AB70.

AB70 would require both the state and local governments to fairly share the costs of damages caused by levee failure. As it stands now, the state pays for everything -- leaving local governments free to make land-use decisions without responsibility, even when a levee designed by the state decades ago to protect agricultural fields fails and floods a tract-home development approved by a local council five years ago. The logical thinking is that, if faced with the threat of liability, local governments might think twice before they approve developments in risky areas -- something that isn't happening right now, Jones said.