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State floodplain rules restricting building in 2015 without levee improvements

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POSTED December 10, 2009 1:57 a.m.
Over a thousand property owners southwest of Manteca – including a number within the city limits – will find it difficult to build structures of any consequence on their land starting in 2015.

The California Legislature passed a law in 2007 that basically restricts building in 200-year floodplains unless levees are upgraded. Without levees that are put in place to protect against so-called “200-year events” – which refers to the intensity and not the frequency – no one will be able to build structures on their property unless it is raised out of the floodplain by placing them on top of earthen mounds or elevating them using stilts or block.

State law prohibits counties or cities from issuing building permits in such areas starting in 2015 if they are not protected by levees designed to withstand a 200-year flood event. That applies to all structures from homes and barns to other outbuildings. It also applies to any home remodeling that involves more than 50 percent of the structure.

Jurisdictions, though, can issue permits in 200-year-flood plains in 2015 if they have plans in place – as well as a way to fund – levee improvements that need to be completed by 2025.

The state requirement exceeds federal rules which stipulate any federally backed mortgages in 100-year flood plains must have flood insurance. A small part of Manteca is in the 100-year plain southwest of Airport Way and the Highway 120 Bypass is in the 100-year flood plain. The 200-year floodplain is a much wider swath. It runs to a ridgeline that ends up just south of Nile Garden School. Much of the area west of a point about midway between Tinnin Road and Union Road and starting at a point south of Woodward Avenue is in the 200-year designation.

The city is exploring the possibility of pursuing levee improvements as far south as Nile Garden or extending the current levee that parallels Woodward Avenue west of Airport Way and extending it to a point about midway between Union Road and Tinnin Road.

The levee would be 80 feet wide and six feet high to the west of Airport Way, 50 feet wide and four feet high east of Airport Way, and 40 feet wide and four feet high east of Union Road.

 Funding would come from property assessment plus development fees and possibly state funds.

If property owners further south don’t want to be taxed to put a levee in place the city will proceed with extending the current levee.

Ed Fonseca – who has property southwest of the city – noted at a workshop Wednesday evening on the levee proposals and the future alignment of McKinley Avenue – that rural property owners are in a Catch-22.

He pointed out if they don’t join in the city effort and support a cross levee to the south of Nile Garden, improvements that Lathrop is making along the San Joaquin River may make their property more susceptible to flooding.

“Lathrop is beefing up their levees and that is going to put more pressure upstream,” Fonseca said.

The area southwest of Manteca is where nine boils along the Stanislaus and San Joaquin rivers turned into levee breaches in 1997 with most of them on the Manteca side of the river. Nearly 70 square miles between Manteca and Tracy were flooded, 700-plus structures – primarily homes – were damaged and caused losses in excess of $80 million.

The Manteca City Council is expected to decide how to pursue the levee project sometime next spring.

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