Given Manteca and the rest of California are wrestling with the consequences of four consecutive years of severe drought Manteca Mayor Steve DeBrum finds it surreal that in less than seven months flooding — or more precisely the fear of it — could stop a large chunk of Manteca’s economic development.
The California Legislature has mandated 200-year flood protection plans to be in place by July 1, 2016 or else they will pull the plug on development in newly expanded flood zones. And while Senate Bill 5 doesn’t require levee upgrades to be in place by then that will stand against a 200-year flood event, jurisdictions must show significant progress which means having a plan to improve levees and identifying a funding mechanism.
DeBrum identified flood protection as the biggest issue for Manteca in 2016 during a talk to the Manteca Rotary meeting Thursday at Ernie’s Rendezvous Room.
The solution to provide protection for southwest and west Manteca, almost all of Lathrop, and the Weston Ranch portion of Stockton along with the county complex that includes San Joaquin General Hospital in French Camp is pegged at $155 million.
Manteca and Lathrop are working jointly on plans to strengthen the San Joaquin River levees that last failed in 1997 during a 100-year flood event. The designation of 100-year or 200-year doesn’t mean that is how often the flooding occurs. Instead it is a reference to the likelihood of such events which explains why the area has had at least three 100-year events in the past century. Also, as more of the valley is paved over the odds of flooding increases due to an increase in non-permeable surfaces such as roofs, parking lots, streets, and sidewalks.
The area in Manteca impacted by the 200-year flood designation is generally along the Airport Way corridor as far east as Sierra High and south of the 120 Bypass to a point just west of Union Road.
There is wording that could exempt development from the ban on building if it is far enough along in the entitlement process as of July 1, 2016. City leaders have taken that to mean it would exempt the proposed 500-room resort and indoor waterpark and accompanying family entertainment zone and CenterPoint Business Park. Also exempted are any developments lifted out of the flood zone by the creation of elevated dirt pads as several houses have been near the San Joaquin and Stanislaus rivers.
“We need to keep going after jobs, jobs, jobs,” DeBrum said.
The mayor said Manteca has been viewed by nearby cities “as a shining light” for new job generation but emphasized the community still has a lot of work to do.
“We need to make sure jobs are created here in Manteca,” DeBrum said.
Manteca’s top prospects to snag more jobs are considered to be the 4-milion-square-foot CenterPoint Business Park on Airport Way north of Lathrop Road and the 30-acre resort hotel site and adjoining family entertainment zone on city-owned property between the 120 Bypass and the municipal wastewater treatment plant. The 1,050-acre Austin Road Business Park has stalled as a development agreement has not yet been hammered out.
DeBrum pointed to a major exodus of city personnel over the next several years due to retirement as a possiblity.
Of the 335 municipal workers, 34 percent are 50 years of age or older
Manteca is already searching for a new city manager and a mew community development director due to pending retirements next month. While a search is on for those two key replacements, the mayor said it is vital for a succession plan to be in place for all departments.
120 Bypass safety
The mayor said Manteca must convince adjoining communities to ban together to push for solutions to stop the carnage on the 120 Bypass.
DeBrum citied Manteca Fire Department statistics for the five miles of the six –mile-long 120 Bypass that run through the city. Over the past five years there have been 407 accidents of which 63 percent of 259 resulted in injuries. There were also nine deaths.
That is in addition to what city officials believe are the “hundreds” of CHP only calls regarding accidents on the Bypass during the same period where medical and fire services were not dispatched.
The mayor believes by identifying the hometown of accident victims it will demonstrate that deaths and major injuries as well as significant property loss is borne by people throughout the region and not just Manteca residents. He then hopes to use that to convince elected leaders in Modesto, Turlock, Ripon, and elsewhere of the need to improve the safety of the commute for many of their residents.
The bulk of the accidents are occurring between Main Street and Highway 99 on the eastbound lanes of the 120 Bypass.
DeBrum is hoping a regional effort will get work started on adding connector lanes from the 120 Bypass to Highway 99 by at least 2019 if not sooner. The San Joaquin Council of Governments is working with Caltrans with the tentative goal to have plans and documents in place to capture future transportation funding with a Measure K match to have the work done by 2019.
SJCOG has also added a project to its list of targeted future endeavors to widen the 120 Bypass to six lanes at a cost of $95 million. The earliest that could happen currently is in 2040.
Caltrans officials have noted that warning signs using real time traffic conditions are being proposed not only for the 120 Bypass but also along Highway 99 as it approaches the interchange.
The automated warning system would include changeable message boards specifically for traffic slowdowns. It would include four monitoring stations and a closed circuit TV station. It is designed to increase awareness of real time traffic conditions ahead and allow motorists to adjust top traffic congestion ahead.
Caltrans is targeting environmental clearance next spring with construction in fall of 2016.
The mayor said breathing new vitality into downtown is essential.
“Downtown is about all of Manteca,” DeBrum said.
He said the city needs to be creative in finding ways to make things happen in central Manteca given that the state has taken redevelopment agencies away as a tool to instigate economic development.
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