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dry levee photo
Expanding and bulking up the dry levee south of Woodward Avenue is part of the 200-year flood work.

Existing residents in the 200-year-flood zone are not off the hook when it comes to paying for more robust protection.

They still are going to have to be part of an effort to cover roughly the two thirds of the $176 million cost to improve levees from  a point south of Mossdale Crossing along the San Joaquin River to French Camp Slough. That’s because the fees being assessed on new growth — homes, commercial and industrial concerns — being built in the flood zone only will cover a third of the bill.

Last week’s Manteca City Council debate that preceded a decision to join Lathrop, Stockton, and the San Joaquin County to ask the state for an extension to start actual physical work on upgrades until 2030 left some with the impression growth was picking up the tab.

There are already 50,000 people living in the 200-year flood zone that the state decided needs to have work started on upgrade levee work by 2025 or new construction would be prohibited. The extension of that deadline to 2030 as requested came after the Department of Water Resources released new modeling based on climate change that now assumes within 45 years waste flow may triple on the San Joaquin River. That will likely require reworking plans and in turn add to the $180 million cost.

All of Lathrop except for River Islands is in the 200-year-flood zone as is Weston Ranch in Stockton and most of French Camp. Southwest Manteca as well as the Airport Way corridor heading north is in the 200-year flood zone as well.

Each city is paying a prorated share of the needed upgrades.

Since 2018, Manteca has been collecting $3,145 on each new home built in the impacted area to go toward Manteca’s prorated $26.9 million share of the overall levee enhancement expected to cost $176 million. The lion’s share will be borne by Lathrop development with the rest by the City of Stockton and the county for the rural area between Lathrop and Weston Ranch.

Manteca is also charging $1,417 per 1,000 square feet of commercial, $1,096 per 1,000 square feet of industrial, and $904 per unit of multiple family complexes for new construction within the 200-year floodplain. The area where the fee applies is everything west of the Airport Way corridor on both sides of the 120 Bypass and the land to the east of Airport Way south of the Bypass to a point roughly halfway to Union Road

Those fees at build-out in Manteca are expected to generate $13.9 million. Unless federal or state funding falls into the city’s laps, the odds are a benefit assessment district (BAD) will be pursued. That is because Manteca will still be $13 million short for its share of the levee work. The shortfall could be larger if changes to accommodate the climate change modeling need to be made.

Should that happen the formation of a BAD would be a forgone conclusion. A BAD could be created by owners of developable land outvoting owners of existing homes and businesses since California law requires a vote of property owners weighed by the amount of land they own and not by registered voters.

It requires a public hearing that also serves as a protest hearing. If the majority supports its formation at that time the district can be formed.

Without the BAD, the raw land cannot be converted into housing. That would mean new homes would be hit twice: First for fees when the building permit is issued and then again if and when a BAD is put in place.

A 200-year flood is a reference to a 1 in 200 chance of an event of such a magnitude in a given year and not the frequency.

Prior to the state mandate for levees to offer 200 year flood protection passed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina that flooded much of New Orleans, levees met 100-year flood requirements.

Manteca, Lathrop, and Stockton aren’t the only communities impacted by the Senate Bill 5 mandate. There are 85 cities in 33 Central Valley counties that have to comply.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email