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Levee work may save $$
Existing homes could avoid expensive flood insurance
Flooding along the Stanislaus River in 2011. - photo by Bulletin file photo

Hundreds — if not thousands — of Lathrop and Manteca residents with government insured home mortgages could avoid spending well over $2,000 a year if future growth ends up bankrolling levees to withstand a 200-year flood.

The Manteca City Council Tuesday authorized spending $863,066 as its share of a $2,589,197 study to determine exactly what needs to be done with 20 miles of San Joaquin River levees maintained by Reclamation District 17 to obtain 200-year flood protection. The balance of the tab is being picked up by Lathrop.

City leaders indicated a special property tax assessment district will likely be forced to not only recoup the cost of the study but also pay for levee improvements that are expected to cost tens of millions of dollars.

A Proposition 218 benefit assessment district would spread the cost across 1,240 acres of undeveloped land in southwest Manteca planned for homes and retail as well as the Great Wolf Resort that falls within the 200-year floodplain. There are 2,250 such acres in Lathrop.

Congress delayed a plan earlier this year to make flood insurance mandatory for all government-backed mortgages in flood zones as a way to cover budget shortfalls in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s insurance program. The FEMA program has been severely stressed by multiple flood claims from major storms along the Eastern Seaboard, in the Midwest and the South. The maximum most of the areas that have been impacted have is 100-year flood protection. 

Such insurance, if imposed, locally, would add an extra $2,000 a year plus on many homes with mortgages in Manteca and Lathrop. Certification that levees could protect against a 200-year flood event could help avoid costly flood insurance in the future by strengthening political arguments that the coverage requirement wouldn’t be justified.

The 200-year levee work is being forced by a state mandate requiring communities provide flood protection for impacted areas or else development will not be allowed to take place.

Manteca and Lathrop must demonstrate by July 1, 2016 that they are making progress at doing the work and implementing a way to pay for it or else the state will halt all new construction in the identified 200-year floodplain.

Since it applies to new growth, existing development won’t be charged for levee work.

While there is no projected cost for the work, nearly eight years ago River Islands at Lathrop spent $70 million to being 18 miles of levees up to 200-year flood protection standards. The cost was kept down because they did not need to import soil to do the levee work as they secured it all within Stewart Tract by creating large manmade lakes that are part of the planned community.