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Petitioners concerned about future flooding

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A home that is under construction in South Manteca.

Bulletin file photo/

POSTED February 16, 2018 1:40 a.m.

A group led by rural South Manteca residents are petitioning the Manteca City Council to place a moratorium on growth in the 200-year floodplain until all flooding impacts have been identified and mitigated.
The push for a building moratorium includes land where the city is pursuing a 500-room resort hotel and indoor water park, the envisioned family entertainment zone, as well as 4,012 housing units in southwest Manteca that includes at least one that grading has been started on.  The housing projects are:
uTrails of Manteca: 1,178 homes, 192 townhouses, 280 apartments
uOakwood Trails: 676 homes
uOakwood Landing: 975 homes, 290 apartments
uTerra Ranch: 212 homes, 209 apartments
City staff is recommending the City Council deny the moratorium request when they met Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St. There were 218 people that signed the petition including both rural and city residents.

Attorney did not
specifically seek
citywide moratorium
The staff report construes the request made by Attorney Michael Babitzke as one that seeks a citywide building moratorium. The staff memo to the council dives into the background of Ordinance 800, as known as the growth management ordinance. It discusses how the comprise of a 3.9 percent annual growth rate based on sewer allocations between factions 30 years ago that wanted less and those that wanted more housing growth was forged. The memo states, “This growth program has served the City well and continues to present a reasonable balance and accommodation between public health, safety and welfare interests advanced by growth management, and the public health, safety and welfare interests advanced by the continued provision of safe, sanitary and affordable regional housing.”
Staff also notes since 2004, the city’s average annual growth rate is 2.04 percent, with the single highest annual growth rate being 3.17 percent
 Babitzike’s request not only doesn’t specifically call for a “communitywide” moratorium, but in numerous appearances before the council in recent years the attorney and his clients have talked specifically about the 200-year floodplain and how proposed improvements could potentially exacerbate future flooding of their properties. They contend proposals that haven’t been fully vetted and are being advanced as the 200-year flood control solution will effectively increase future floodwater levels on property south of the cross-levee that will protect the proposed and existing development in southwest Manteca leaving new homes dry at their expense.
The City of Manteca working with the City of Lathrop is pursuing required protection for 200-year floodplain to allow new development to proceed under the terms of Senate Bill 5. The vast majority of Manteca is outside the 200-year floodplain.

Legal hammer
is questionable
Of particular concern of rural South Manteca residents is an alignment for the cross-levee has not been identified therefore modeling on whether that will adversely impact property hasn’t been developed based on an actual identified solution.
Whether there is a legal hammer that could ultimately stop any of the projects now in play — or ones that may pop up in the next year or so as work proceeds on the plan to enhance flood protection — is highly doubtful.
That’s because Senate Bill 5 exempted projects that had obtained regulatory approval by a certain date. In addition new proposals for additional construction are allowed to move forward as long as benchmarks are reached and approved by the state.
The timetable in place calls for environmental work to be done and final engineering started in 2020. That is the same year right-of-way acquisition would start. The target to secure the land and begin the permitting process is in 2022. Construction under the timetable would start in 2024.
If that holds, it meets state requirements.
The city already has established fees to pay for the work. The Terra Ranch homes will be the first to pay fees designed to help pay for Manteca’s share of a projected $176 million needed to upgrade Reclamation District 17 levees along the San Joaquin River and a cross or dry levee south of Woodward Avenue to provide enhanced protection for a large swatch of currently developed Lathrop (minus River islands), Weston Ranch in Stockton, southwest Manteca, and rural areas between French Camp and Lathrop where 48,000 residents now reside. One-third of Manteca Unified School District’s 24,500 students are housed at campuses within the 200-year floodplain.
Land where Terra Ranch and the other three neighborhoods are being built have certified 100-year flood protection.
Projects in the area will account for the lion’s share of the $13.9 million that new projects in Manteca’s portion of the 200-year floodplain will be paying for the work required by Senate Bill 5.

What is at stake?
The dry levee needs to be designed to address a 200-year flood event that has a 1 in 200 chance of happening in any given year and not that it happens only once every 200 years.
Should a 200-year flood occur with multiple levee failures along the Stanislaus and San Joaquin rivers south of the Interstate 5 bridge before the merger with the 120 Bypass, it would create a soggy Armageddon of sorts that would:
uflood 4,200 existing homes with 3 feet or more of water.
uendanger and force the evacuation of 10,698 residents in Lathrop outside of River islands, Weston Ranch in Stockton, and southwest Manteca.
uforce the evacuation of San Joaquin Hospital — the county’s major trauma center — as well as the county jail.
uforce first responders at nine fire stations, the Lathrop Police Department and the county sheriff to abandon their stations and key communication centers in the middle of a major emergency.
uLathrop High and Weston Ranch High would have water flowing through their campuses as would six other Manteca Unified elementary schools.
uforce the closure of portion of Interstate 5 — the major West Coast freeway running from Mexico to Canada — and the 120 Bypass.
uwater would swamp the wastewater treatment plant serving 75,000 existing Manteca residents and more than 13,000 of Lathrop’s nearly 20,000 residents.
udisrupt Union Pacific Railroad train movements as well as damage tracks that Altamont Corridor Express relies on.
u182 commercial and industrial properties from Costco to the Lathrop Target and Tesla Motors to Simplot would be flooded.
And that’s just for starters. Modeling shows a number of existing homes would likely suffer water damage in fringe areas that could receive upwards of three feet of flood water.
Manteca, Lathrop, and Stockton aren’t the only communities impacted by the Senate Bill 5 mandate. There are 85 cities in 33 Central Valley counties that have to deal with the mandate.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email

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