The House of Representatives Thursday unanimously passed America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018.
It includes provisions authored by Congressman Jeff Denham that authorizes long-delayed flood control protection measures needed to enhance the safety of more than 50,000 residents in San Joaquin County.
Denham also was successful at inserting language that requires federal agencies to expedite feasibility studies of Reclamation District 17’s efforts to meet a state mandate to upgrade flood protection of Lathrop, parts of southwest Stockton, French Camp, and a segment of western Manteca to 200-year flood protection certification.
The area impacted includes all of Lathrop except for River islands that already has 200-year protection, Weston Ranch, eight Manteca Unified school campuses, San Joaquin General Hospital, the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s office and jail, the Manteca wastewater treatment plant, and critical transportation infrastructure including Interstate 5 and the Union Pacific Railroad main line and Altamont Corridor Express rail passenger service.
Federal review of flood protection measures can move maddeningly slow through the bureaucracy.
One solution that would create a safety valve by widening Paradise Cut to the south from where it branches off the San Joaquin River and passes beneath Interstate 5 just north of the Interstate 205 interchange to where it connects with the Old River is an idea that has been floating around the state Department of Water Resources since the 1980s.
The Lower San Joaquin River Flood Bypass Proposal was formally submitted to the California Department of Water Resources in March 2011 by the South Delta Levee Protection and Channel Maintenance Authority and other partners.
The review of that project by the Army Corps of Engineers is separate from the River Islands effort to add 200 acres on the north side of the envisioned bypass as part of the development of the 11,000-home planned community that would also take signdficant pressure off the San Joaquin River during higher water flows.
The River Islands project is based on a proposal made years ago that resurfaced in 2001 in an Army Corps of Engineers report to create a river bypass to reduce the potential for flooding in Manteca, Lathrop, and Stockton.
The Paradise Cut endeavor has been embraced by environmental groups as it would allow the restoration of habitat.
The Paradise Cut project is independent of efforts to secure 200-year flood protection for lands and cities on the eastside of the San Joaquin River from Lathrop/Manteca to Stockton but it would enhance those efforts. The levee work needed has been pegged at more than $160 million.
In a news release Thursday, Denham noted the water infrastructure bill is a “pivotal step in solving the Central Valley’s long term water storage crisis. The bill provides financing for water projects throughout the western United States, including new reservoirs, below ground storage projects, recycling and desalination projects.”
Denham’s provision in the bill authorizes the Environmental Protection Agency to finance Bureau of Reclamation projects under the Water Infrastructure and Innovation Act program and sets a one-year deadline for execution.
If signed into law, the Denham language would provide a new tool for financing and building Central Valley water infrastructure that would make major water infrastructure improvements a reality. Passage of the measure in the House comes coms on the heels of other developments in the fight against Sacramento’s water grab, including garnering the support of Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue in combatting the state’s Bay-Delta plan and the House passage of the Denham amendment to stop it.
The water bill is expected to pass the Senate.
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