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Cantu opposes building in flood zone until levees are upgraded
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Mayor Ben Cantu believes it is irresponsible for the City of Manteca to continue issuing building permits within the 200-year floodplain before additional levee improvements are in place.

Cantu last week was on the losing end of a 4-1 council vote certifying adequate progress is being made by Reclamation District 17 to start construction of upgraded levees along the San Joaquin River as well as a controversial dry levee in Manteca’s southwest flank by Oct. 31, 2025 that will meet the new 200-year rating as mandated by Sacramento under Senate Bill 5.

The annual certification that work is underway has been needed since July 2016 under a provision of SB5 that allows jurisdictions to continue legally issuing building permits within the 200-year flood zone. The existing levees are certified to protect against 100-year floods. The state established the tougher 200-year standard in 2007.

The 200-year moniker refers to the odds of large scale flood happening in any given year and not simply once every 200 years. There could be three 200-year events back-to-back

“We should not be issuing permits within the flood area until the levee is repaired, expanded rebuilt — whatever it takes,” Cantu said.

He noted several thousand more homes could be built in southwest Manteca that is within the 200-year floodplain before the levees are upgraded. Cantu said that would increase the exposure to flood damage risks on top of homes already built should a 200-year flood event occur before levee work is completed.

The 500-room Great Wolf Lodge and indoor waterpark is being built in the 200-year floodplain. The annual progress certification is also needed for the city to be able to start construction of the adjoining 100 acre plus family entertain zone they are pursuing on municipal land. A large amount of civic infrastructure is within the 200-year floodplain including the wastewater treatment plant valued at excess of $100 million to replace.

The city so far has approved nearly 2,200 more homes in the 200-year floodplain in addition to what was already built. The first of those homes started construction in 2018. Each new home now being built in the impacted area — including those in 2018 — are paying $3,145 each 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.

There were 61 homes built in 2018 that the city collected $175,000 in levee fees.

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 because Manteca will still be $13 million short for its share of the levee work.

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.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email