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Levee could disrupt farms, residents
The proposed levee alignment that consultants are working with in the absence of a directive from the Manteca City Council runs down the west side of Airport Way for about a half mile between Fig and Peach avenues. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Bill Cambra thinks the City of Manteca should give serious consideration to elevating part of Airport Way to serve as a levee.

Dee Wackerly doesn’t understand why an 8-foot high  dry levee is even needed preferring a stronger and higher parallel levee be put in place alongside the existing Stanislaus and San Joaquin river levees much like it was on River Islands.

Arnold Rothlin wants to know what the city will do when their solution to protect homes that haven’t been built yet causes floodwaters to inundate his farm’s structures and his home that have survived all previous major floods because water was able to go with the lay of the land.

And Bryce Perkins of Tuff Boy wants to make sure that gateways to return floodwaters to the river are adequate.

The four are among the ultimate stakeholders in the joint bid by Manteca and Lathrop to pursue $150 million in flood protection enhancements to allow developers to keep building in  their respective communities. Other suggestions included dredging the rivers of 50 years of silt build-up from Westside irrigation discharges.

They brought their concerns to the Manteca City Council Tuesday night. And so the process triggered by a state mandate to have a plan and financing mechanism for protection against a 200-year flood event in place by July 1, 2016 is as open as possible, Mayor Steve DeBrum is requesting a joint meeting between the City Council and the Reclamation District 17 board.

Sometime in the next 17 months the two cities working with the reclamation district must have a alignment, design, and funding mechanism adopted or the state under Senate Bill 5 will shut down construction in the recently identified 200-year floodplain. The worst floods to strike the area in the 11 times flood since 1928 have been two 100-year events — one in  the 1950s and the other in 1997. The 200-year designation refers to the intensity and not the frequency of floods.

The farmers and residents in the rural area immediately south of Manteca will be impacted the greatest even if the levee does not end up running behind their homes or through their property. That’s because water will be stopped in an event much greater than the 1997 flood and held back causing the flood water to rise higher than ever before.

The levee alignment that consultants are working with in absence of an exact alignment adopted by the Manteca City Council, creates an 8-foot high wall of dirt to cut Cambra’s farming operations where he houses his equipment off from some of his fields. It also runs a levee right next to his home.

He suggested consultants explore the option of elevating a segment of Airport Way to blend in with the levee by running the road on top of it.

DeBrum had asked the council be given an update on levee work after Neighbors United representatives — a collection of residents from around the Manteca area but mostly from south of the city — had repeatedly asked for more public discussion of the levee ahead of planned workshops and hearings.

“I’ve got a sense we are not going to satisfy someone,” Richard Silverman said of when  the final decision is made on the dry levee location.

Silverman said he wanted to work as transparent as possible on coming up with a solution that would be the best overall.

He told residents that he wanted to meet with them so they could show him their concerns about the levee’s potential alignment.

“We are all Mantecans,” DeBrum said after several speakers expressed frustration that they had no say at the ballot box on the five individuals who would ultimately make a decision that will significantly impact their lives.

The mayor added that the goal is to come up with the best possible solution for everyone.