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Levees: Here we go again
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Editor, Manteca Bulletin,
The Curse of Kehama has surfaced in Manteca along the shores of the San Joaquin River. Or, as some would say, the preverbal chickens have come home to roost, again.
The matter of rising water along the San Joaquin River is once again an issue that requires immediate attention. It is such a criterial issue that the State and the Feds are requiring local agencies to “beef up” the levees and to pay for the added protection. Who pays and how much, is currently being debated, as for the issue of whether or not the work is required has been settled — it will be done!
My issue with this entire matter revolves around the idiom. As the city planner (for 34 years) in Manteca this very issue of rising waters and levee work surfaced a number of times, during major rainy seasons, when homes were planned in the flood plain, and after two major floods. (I remember the cows with “Bill” spray-painted on their sides wondering around looking for home.) In each case, the matter of needed levee repair or rebuild was simply set aside for a future date by the Manteca City Council and the State without resolution, or as advocated by profit minded influences.
My second issue is the all too common approach that City Hall and the Council took in the past with regard to the levees; even when they allowed homes to be built in the flood plain. Their all too common response of “no money is available” and “if we build more homes we will have the money” has never in 40 years produced the “money.”
Today, there are hundreds of new homes in the flood plain, and we are once again discussing the levees and costs and who will pay. Which brings to mind yet another idiom, “You get what you pay for.” In this case however, “you” didn’t pay in the first place; so the Curse of Kehama is knocking at the door, again.
Our neighbor to the west, the City of Lathrop, did it right. They required the developers to reinforce the San Joaquin River levees as part of their new home projects; it was not an afterthought but rather an integral component. In Manteca’s case, it appears that the cost of rebuilding the levees will be assumed by the entire community instead of just the new home projects that “choose” to develop in the flood plain.
Some will argue that the subject land areas where removed from the flood plain by the existing levees. Well, if that were the case, the visual picture from the last flood of “Bill” cows wondering around in belly deep water will attest that it is still a flood plain; especially, when the levees in question have not been “beefed up” since the last flood.

Benjamin Cantu