They say that farmers can patch anything.
After a levee breach was discovered Monday night along the San Joaquin River near McMullin and Hays Roads, quick-thinking farmers who live in the area used heavy equipment to cave in the breach to the point of stopping the water from flowing through.
But that didn’t stop the San Joaquin County Office of Emergency Services from issuing an evacuation order for a huge swath of Manteca south of the Highway 120 bypass – everything east of the San Joaquin River to Union Road, extending almost north to Woodward Avenue and South to Avenue D. The order impacts roughly 500 people.
Crews from the United States Army Corps of Engineers were on hand Monday to assess the situation and plan for a permanent fix.
The breach was discovered not far from where ACE crews discovered a sinkhole last week – bringing in rock trucks throughout the night to fill in the trouble spot – and near where the same levee broke in 1997, flooding nearby farmland and rural homes.
More than a dozen breaks occurred during that flood season, with more than 2,000 people fleeing for dry land. When the waters finally receded, the water had done more than $100 million in damage.
The Lathrop Community Center was opened as an emergency evacuation shelter.
“We are sad to hear the news that the levee has breached and are happy to open one of our facilities as an evacuation center for residents of Manteca,” said Lathrop Mayor Sonny Dhaliwal. “We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our neighbors in Manteca and will do everything within our power to help.”
And while the patch may have held the levee from breaking completely open Monday night, it’s about to get a whole new opponent when water being discharged from Don Pedro Reservoir flows into the San Joaquin River sometime this afternoon.
Dam operators at Don Pedro opened the controlled spillway – nearly doubling the amount of water in coming out of the reservoir and into the Tuolumne River – at 3 p.m. on Monday for the first time in two decades. Crews used heavy equipment to remove a segment of Bonds Flat Road so that the water, which flows down a natural hillside, didn’t send chunks of asphalt into the river. It is expected to be closed until at least July.
That fresh influx of water, which is expected to continue for four consecutive days, is expected to raise the San Joaquin River at Vernalis to almost 32 feet by Thursday.
Manteca residents not residing in the evacuation area are urged to stay out of the area to allow work crews and first responders to operate as efficiently as possible.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209.249.3544.