Lathrop Councilman Paul Akinjo didn’t want to overstep his bounds and become a makeshift lobbyist without the blessing of City Manager Steve Salvatore or City Attorney Sal Navarrete.
But when he was in Sacramento representing Lathrop at a League of California Cities conference and the discussion about Senate Bill 5 – the 200-year flood plain protection bill that will have drastic consequences for Lathrop and the way it pushes through development unless other communities decide to help pick up the burden that the law currently creates – Akinjo couldn’t help himself.
He found local legislators that were familiar with the topic and pitched Lathrop’s position as expertly as he could. Simply, put Lathrop is a city that mapping has shown exists completely within the 200-year flood plain, the cost to overhaul the levees along the San Joaquin River and the financing plan required to do so is a tremendous undertaking for a city of Lathrop’s size.
Bottom line – they need help.
City officials have long been crying for neighboring communities like Stockton to get on board even though only a fraction of their levee boundary is affected by the area and nearly none of their significant future development would be disrupted.
Manteca has since signed on to cover its share of the cost, but with repairs totaling as much as $160 million conservatively, coalition building becomes the order of the day.
And all that Akinjo said he wanted to do was make sure that those who represent these areas in Sacramento understand that growth of any kind is in jeopardy if that funding or the coalition needed to secure it doesn’t become available during the schedule being mandated by the State of California.
Currently it appears that Lathrop is on track to secure the findings of adequate progress needed to continue development thanks to the development community putting up sizable portions of the environmental engineering work that needed to be completed for the modeling and mapping.
The matter, Akinjo said, just wasn’t something that he wanted to see slip away.
“The issue of liability does not set well with the governor, but our legislators know and they’re aware and they’re prepared to advocate on our behalf,” he said.
While the likelihood of a 200-year flood is slim – especially given California’s current drought situation – Lathrop is in a unique position because of its low-lying placement in the valley.
The work being done on River Islands – which reinforced those levees to withstand a 300-year flood separately long before the state mandate became an issue – is being done as part of a separate reclamation district.