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CCC crews train today for future levee breaches

Earlier this month the California Conservation Corps opened its first Stockton residential housing center aimed at having resources available in the event of a flood.

And today they’ll be on a levee in South Stockton practicing their response in the event of a breach.

In preparation for potential flooding during the winter season, approximately 200 corps members from 13 different centers will assemble on the levee behind Van Buskirk Golf Course to practice flood control tactics – honing their skills in the effort to protect life and property for Californians that may be living in a flood impact zone.

The organization, a state agency that offers “young men and women a paid opportunity to improve California’s natural resources and communities,” was active in South Manteca in 2016 when the swollen San Joaquin River threatened to break through its banks and forced widespread evacuations of South Manteca.

While a levee did breach during the tumultuous winter season – less than a mile away from where CCC crews were sandbagging boils in an ongoing effort to monitor historic seepage from the river – it was landowners and farmers that were able to respond in time to prevent widespread destruction by caving the levee in on the breach before it widened and threatened the hundreds of houses South of the Highway 120 Bypass.

An evacuation order was issued after the breach was reported, and many of the same South Manteca roads that were inundated with water in the historic 1997 floods were closed to prevent access to the river and the evacuated homes and ranches nearby.

Since then, Reclamation District 17 – the agency that oversees the levees along the San Joaquin River from Mossdale through to the north side of Stockton – has performed extensive retrofitting measures to further strengthen the levee, and cities like Lathrop and Manteca have been at the forefront of the effort in San Joaquin County to bolster the levees to the state-mandated 200-year level of protection required under Senate Bill 5. That project, which could cost more than $150 million to complete, now has the backing of other affected county municipalities, and the work to secure the funding necessary to complete the repairs is underway.

Originally opened in 1976 under the direction of Governor Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown Jr. – who is giving up his second stint as governor at the end of the year – to assist with fires, floods and weather and agricultural disasters, the conservation corps is the oldest of its kind in the country and provides opportunities for young adults from 18 to 25 and veterans up to 29 to serve their communities.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.