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Help for Lathrop levees nearer
City approves states general plan for flood plain
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Pleasure boats are seen coming south on the San Joaquin River near River Islands and Highway 99 with a sizeable levee seen in the background. Much of the rivers water is headed toward Southern California. - photo by GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin

Last week, the City of Lathrop learned that California Senator Cathleen Galgiani was working to secure $110 million towards the cost of retrofitting the levees set to protect the City of Lathrop city in the event that the San Joaquin River surges.

And on Monday the City Council took another step towards lining up all of its ducks before the expensive construction portion of the project begins approving a State-mandated general plan amendment that will outline the recent engineering work completed to map the entire 200-year floodplain, detail the agencies that have a stake in the preservation of the levees and spell-out emergency provisions in case the levees were to fail.

A series of Sacramento-mandated bills are now requiring all urban areas in California to ensure protection against a 200-year flood. But Lathrop, which found out after hiring a mapping consultant that the entire city lies within that plain, is facing a much larger workload than most other cities affected by the San Joaquin River because of its proximity and the miles upon miles of snaking levees.

While the work won’t likely be completed, or even begin, for some time, the city has been active in putting together a coalition of municipal entities in order to secure funding for a project that could cost as much as $160 million – attempting to bring both the City of Stockton and the San Joaquin County to the table to join the partnership that was already functioning with the City of Manteca.

Making sure that a “finding of adequate progress” is granted by the State of California in relation to the undertaking is critical for Lathrop because without that piece of paper all development within the flood zone would be halted until further notice, jeopardizing several projects that are already underway.

The development community has helped fund at least a portion of the early work, and Galgiani’s announcement that she would be seeking $110 million to cover the state’s portion of the work from a bond that was approved by voters for flood relief and emergency preparedness marked the first major victory since the mandated improvements first became law.

River Islands, which is governed by two reclamation districts separate from the one that governs the rest of the city, will be seeking certification of its reinforced levees by the July 2, 2016 deadline for the adequate progress findings. Additional levee improvements and certifications in the sections of the community that aren’t yet near development will be made and sought at a later date.