The Record has an extremely interesting story about the Army Corps of Engineers draft plan for upgrading Stockton area levees. I have not had a chance to review the draft plan yet, but the article discusses an important issue surrounding RD 17.
The Corps eliminated from consideration any improvements to the San Joaquin River levee that protects Reclamation District 17, a vast area stretching from Weston Ranch to Lathrop. The government’s justification is a Carter-era executive order that forbids levee improvements that might encourage development in floodplains. If the improvements went forward, the population living behind the RD 17 levee could increase by 100,000 people or more, the Corps reports.
While the Federal Emergency Management Agency does not consider RD 17 to be in a high-risk flood plain, the Corps does — and that’s the problem. “We can’t responsibly invest limited funds in levee improvements in areas that would induce or facilitate growth within an area highly prone to deep flooding,” said Stacy Samuelson, a water resources planner with the Corps.
On the flip side, tens of thousands of people already live in RD 17, and the area is home to San Joaquin General Hospital, the county jail, Interstate 5 and other important infrastructure. All the more reason to provide better protection, advocates say. “We’re not happy, and we’re going to fight it,” said Dante Nomellini, a Stockton attorney representing the reclamation district. “The problem is there’s no (added) protection for the 43,000 residents and all the investments that are out there now. That’s the craziness of it.”The other important infrastructure is about to include a nearly $200 million VA clinic to break ground soon next to SJ General. I certainly believe in protecting floodplains, but there are other planning and public safety principals to consider as well, including the principal to concentrate development around existing infrastructure.
It reminds me of Natomas in the Sacramento area. Talk about federally funded levee upgrades that will induce or facilitate development.