Manteca is spending $80,600 in a bid to convince Congress not to adopt regulations that would cost Manteca residents and businesses at least $17 million annually.
The money is funding the services of the Washington, D.C., lobbying firm of Van Scoyoc Associates for one year. The lobbying firm’s primary directive is to convince members of Congress not to place all of Manteca in a flood plain designation that would make flood insurance mandatory for homes and businesses. It also could require all new construction to be placed on earthen berms above a projected flood line.
Acting on the City of Manteca’s behalf in the past year the firm worked with Congress members Dennis Cardoza, Jerry McNerney, and Jeff Denham to have the mandatory flood insurance provision successfully deleted from a House bill.
Mayor Willie Weatherford, who cast the lone dissenting vote against the contract, suggested the council would be better off to give the $80,600 to the Manteca Unified school farm to help kids instead of paying a lobbyist. Weatherford made his suggestion based on the source of the funding for the lobbyist - the city’s set aside money for agricultural preservation that came from fees no longer collected on new growth.
Councilman Steve DeBrum noted a lobbying effort could also help Manteca avoid costly upgrades in federal storm runoff treatment the Environmental Protection Agency is pondering since Manteca’s storm system discharges into the river. DeBrum also believes lobbying could help the city in efforts to secure federal Community Development Block Grant money, transit funds, and outreach program for home ownership.
“I’ve a long time ago realized lobbyists were a necessary evil,” noted Councilman John Harris.
Harris said he was reluctantly backing the expenditure in an attempt to make sure all of Manteca doesn’t get labeled by the federal government as a flood plain. In a city south of Fresno that did get included in a flood zone even though it has never flooded, a typical home owner is now forced to pay $2,600 a year for federal flood insurance.
Harris noted the City of Sacramento has successfully lobbied to be excluded from any such future flood designation.
The possibility of all of Manteca being included in the mandatory zone when it comes to flood insurance first came up in the Senate four years ago. That move was defeated. A measure to extend the federal flood insurance program beyond its July 1 expiration date passed last month in the House of Representatives with the mandatory insurance provision for additional areas such as Manteca taken out. The Senate passed a measure that had the requirement.
Both the House and Senate voted to extend the flood insurance program until the end of the year so the two chambers could work on a compromise bill.
Part of southwest Manteca around Airport Way and Woodward Avenue has always been identified as being in a flood zone. The new language would put all of a city that has part of its area in a 100-year flood zone under the mandatory flood insurance requirement.
A cross levee is being extended and reinforced as part of a 1,400-home project known as the Trails at Manteca to protect southwest Manteca from a future levee failure along with the San Joaquin and Stanislaus rivers. The developer will fund the upgrades. It is the same levee that protected southwest Manteca from flooding when 11 breaks occurred along river levees in January of 1997 inundating 70 square miles between Manteca and Tracy.
That flood damaged 700 buildings and caused close to $100 million in losses.