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Army Corps: Lathrops levee fails safety test
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SACRAMEMNTO (AP) — Seven of 10 Central Valley levee systems inspected by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – including the levee protecting Lathrop and southwest Manteca -  do not meet the agency’s safety criteria and could be threatened in a flood or storm, officials said Wednesday.

Seven systems received “unacceptable” ratings and three received “minimally acceptable” ratings in the first 10 of 26 Central Valley levee system inspections, which are conducted by engineers on foot every five years.

By contrast, the so-called 300-foot wide super levees put in place by Cambay Group to protect the first phase of the 10,800-home River Islands at Lathrop project passed the inspection with ease as they are rated for 200-year flood events.

“When you see an ‘unacceptable’ rating, that means there are problems that could threaten the levees if there’s a flood or storm,” said corps spokesman Chris Gray. “We think it’s important for people to understand the risks.”

Five of the unacceptable systems will not be eligible for federal aid to repair flood and storm damage to the levees until the problems are corrected, corps officials said.

The other seven systems with unacceptable ratings are in Lathrop, Marysville, Natomas, Sacramento, Stockton and Yuba City. The three minimally acceptable systems are in the Sacramento-Del Paso area.

The problems facing the levees include erosion, soil instability, water seepage and holes burrowed by animals.

“This is a warning flag, and, of course, we take these concerns very seriously,” said Mark Connelly, a flood-management official with San Joaquin County.

The 10 levee systems considered most at-risk were inspected first. Results of the 16 other system inspections are expected this winter.

The inspection “reinforces the need to proactively manage our flood risk,” said State Department of Water Resources Director Mark Cowin. “We have been and will continue to work closely with the corps through our FloodSAFE Initiative to address flood risk on a systemwide basis.”

The state has finished 118 of the most critical levee repairs since voters approved nearly $5 billion in flood bonds four years ago, Cowin said.