A levee along a waterway that the State of California has jurisdiction is being breached. Who do you call for help while you scramble like the mythical Little Dutch Boy who plugged a hole in the dike with his finger until the cavalry arrived?
There are state agencies with various acronyms that are charged with doing so.
But as south Manteca farmers discovered Monday night don’t expect help unless you file a request in triplicate.
That’s essentially he response they got to frantic phone calls asking for help from state contacts at several agencies.
Basically they were told they would run it up the chain of command and to fax or email a letter so they could get things rolling to send help in the morning.
It’s a perfect addition to Philip K. Howard’s stinging New York Times bestseller “The Death of Common Sense” that provides case after case of how a bloated and regulation-griping bureaucracy is unable to be responsive to basic government functions.
Hundreds of homes were saved thanks to farmers and not state agencies.
The reason why River Islands at Lathrop has 300-foot wide levees and no longer has to worry about the Bureau of Reclamation or Army Corps of Engineers misjudging run-off or waiting too long to act in establishing operational framework for New Melones Reservoir and Don Pedro Reservoir is they found a way to put them in place without government approval.
Cambay Group had spent more than five years seeking state approval to do the levee widening and had made little or no headway at the state when they came up with a solution that was outside of regulations that said they couldn’t alter levees without state approval. The $70 million solution Cambay Group paid for involved building a parallel dirt levee and filling in the gap without changing the structure of the original levees.
It should be noted the Stewart Tract levees where River Islands is being developed broke in 1997 after the river waters started receding. It is true that Stewart Tract back during the storm of the century in 1950 served as a safety valve of sorts when levees failed a short time prior to other levees failing that flooded north to Stockton. But even if the state’s de facto “safety valve” is hoping rural levees break to save others downstream including urban areas that would have a lot of angry voters, what right does the state have to think it’s OK to basically hope a break occurs to essentially use private farmland so the inadequately designed and ill-managed water system they’ve put in place can continue with no changes?
Making matters worse is the Army Corps of Engineers dragging out an 18 month review process for a River Islands permit to clean up and set back the levees in Paradise Cut — the safety valve that the Army Corps itself said would take pressure off the San Joaquin River between Vernalis and Mossdale — to the point it has been 14 years and counting. It’s been under environmental review since 2003.
The permit filed in 2003 would basically increase the flow into Paradise Cut during flood events by 3,000 cubic feet per second to bring it up to the Army Corps’ design standard of 15,600 cubic feet per second.
That’s only the half of it. In 2006 River Islands submitted a plan to widen the cut and expand it to the south and adjust the weir to allow excess water to flow into Paradise Cut year round. That fix would lower the level of the San Joaquin River by 1.8 feet.
Again, River Islands would pick up the entire tab. And it wouldn’t benefit River Islands, but the region as a whole. That’s what a good neighbor does.
Hampton Inn proves
they are good neighbor
Speaking of good neighbors, give Hampton Inn at Orchard Valley — and any other Manteca hotel that did likewise — for slashing room rates for residents fleeing the evacuation area Monday night.
Rooms were being quoted for $169 on the hotel’s website. But hotel management directed staff that anyone booking a room from the evacuation area would have a reduced rate of $119.
This is a real big deal considering what happened in 1997 when several local hotels responded to the flood crisis by raising room rates.
Manteca resident Lee Magincalda recalled all too well what happened in 1997. While her extended family of eight adults — including two seniors — were able to get a room at a Livermore hotel tanks to the foresight of her then fiancé and now husband Marshall — many neighbors were not as lucky.
“Some folks were paying four times the normal rate and that was for a horrible hotel in town,” Magincalda recalled of 1997.
Hampton Inn — without a doubt — is a stellar example of a good neighbor.
Feinstein on a levee vs.
Denham on a levee
The image of Congressman Jeff Denham standing on the levee south of Manteca on Monday watching as farmers worked feverishly to stop a breach and to protect the homes of 500 of their neighbors, recalled another levee scene in 1997.
Then State Sen. Michael Machado escorted U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein — who was wearing high heels, a dress, and an overcoat — on a walk along the dry levee south of Woodward Avenue where California Conservation Corps crews were working feverishly to make sure southwest Manteca’s last line of defense held.
Tagging along were network TV camera crews and press photographers.
Contrast that with Monday when Denham was dressed in jeans, boots, and jacket. His photo was snapped by a farmer using a smartphone.
When Feinstein completed her tour she promised that her office could do whatever it could to help prevent a repeat of the 1997 floods.
Denham, by contrast, wasn’t there for a photo op but to see in real time what his constituents were up against.
Denham has indicated he will see what his office can do to get the Army Corps of Engineers to move along permit approval for Paradise Cut work to ease pressure on the San Joaquin River.