Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Natomas Building, Sacramento Flooding

Though it is good to be concerned about Natomas flooding, it is not so good to be running low on water in a state where north-state rainfall, if captured, can supply Central and Northern California.

Two projects would reduce both worries in Sacramento “considered the urban area most vulnerable to catastrophic flooding in the nation”.

In addition to building the Auburn Dam, which we have long advocated, raising Shasta Dam to the original height it was engineered for, would, as noted in a 2004 Sacramento Bee article:

“From an engineering standpoint, it's [raising the dam] a piece of cake. The dam, built between 1938 and 1945, was originally planned to be 200 feet taller. At 800 feet, it would have been the highest and biggest in the world.

“Sheri Harral, public affairs officer at the dam, said World War II and materials shortages associated with the war effort led to a decision to stop construction at 602 feet.

"The thinking was to come back and add on to it if ever there was a need to," Harral said. "They started looking at raising it in 1978."

“If Shasta Dam had been built up to its engineering limit in 1945, it is arguable that Northern and Central California would not be facing a critical water shortage now.

“According to a 1999 Bureau of Reclamation study, a dam 200 feet taller would be able to triple storage to 13.89 million acre-feet of water.

“Still, tripling the size of Shasta Lake, on paper at least, would store nine times the projected 2020 water deficit for the Sacramento, San Joaquin and Tulare Lake basins during normal water years.”

It is not to late to rectify the mistakes of the past and encourage public leadership to respond to the serious need to address catastrophic flooding through adoption of a 500 year level of flood protection for our community, and the need for more water in the growing Sacramento region, by raising Shasta Dam and building Auburn Dam.

Levee report shocks city
Feds plan tough restrictions that could halt building in Natomas and require flood insurance.
By Mary Lynne Vellinga And Matt Weiser -
Published 12:18 am PST Wednesday, January 16, 2008

After years of post-Hurricane Katrina pressure to improve the nation's defenses against catastrophic flooding, the federal government took a drastic step Tuesday.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it would place Sacramento's fast-growing Natomas in a flood hazard zone, essentially halting construction of homes, offices and stores until the levees are improved.

The FEMA announcement sets a long-awaited deadline for homeowners to buy flood insurance before rates rise.

The designation was greeted with anger and shock by Sacramento city officials who have supported bold levee repair plans but oppose restrictions on building.

City leaders questioned the evaluation conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. They said they would seek "an act of Congress" to stop the federal action. And they said the new rules could cripple Sacramento's economy.

"I am very frustrated and very angry with the Army Corps of Engineers and FEMA because Sacramento has really become the poster child of what to do right in flood protection," Mayor Heather Fargo said at a hastily called news conference.

Natomas is a major economic driver for the city, which is facing a significant budget crisis. "I'm totally outraged," City Manager Ray Kerridge said Tuesday. "I don't know how the federal government can do this to this city."

North Natomas today accounts for 47 percent of the development in the city of Sacramento.

Fargo said she wasn't sure the city would appeal, but it would seek help from U.S. Rep. Doris Matsui. "The one solution left that I'm aware of is an act of Congress," she said.

Unlike her late husband, however, it doesn't look as if Matsui will lead a charge to make FEMA back off. In the 1980s, U.S. Reps. Robert Matsui and Vic Fazio pushed through legislation that prevented FEMA from slapping building restrictions on much of Sacramento. But that was before Hurricane Katrina destroyed much of New Orleans.

"Public safety is No. 1," Matsui spokeswoman Lauren Smith said Tuesday. She said the congresswoman was "exploring avenues" that would allow critical projects, such as a planned North Natomas fire station, to proceed.

Sacramento is considered the urban area most vulnerable to catastrophic flooding in the nation.