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More homes will save money in Lathrop, Manteca floods zones
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If you live in Lathrop, southwest Manteca or Weston Ranch and you’re against growth then you’d better get ready to spend a lot of money if you get your wish.

That’s because a state law and a pending federal regulation are creating a perfect storm in regards to floods control.

In the aftermath of the Manteca and Marysville floods of 1997 that followed on the heels of the rural Marysville flood of 1986, the California Legislature passed a law requiring communities prone to a 200-year-flood (a reference to the intensity of a flood and  not its frequency) to provide levee protection to counter the threat. If they don’t have the financing in place or actual construction underway by July 1, 2016 for such improvements all development will cease in identified 200-year floodplains under state law.

While that may sound good if you are against growth and live in such a flood zone as one that includes all of Lathrop and Weston Ranch plus areas along the Airport Way corridor as far east as Sierra High as well as the neighborhoods south of the 120 Bypass flanking Airport Way in Manteca, it isn’t.

That’s because the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been delayed temporarily from imposing new flood insurance rules in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the New Orleans disaster as well as Hurricane Sandy. Essentially areas prone to 200-year events but not protected against them.

It means homes with mortgages secured by the government — easily more than 70 percent of the homes in Manteca, Lathrop, and Weston Ranch — could be subject to mandatory flood insurance premiums of $2,200 plus a year.

That comes to $43.20 a week directly out of the pocket of a homeowner and indirectly from a renter living in an impacted home.

Ironically, the only way to escape such a financial hit is if growth continues in Manteca, Lathrop, and Weston Ranch after July 1, 2016.

That may sound as if you’re cursed if you do and cursed if you don’t but that isn’t the case.

The estimated $150 million cost to make levee improvements needed to reach the state standard would be paid for by new growth in impacted areas. That number is before bond borrowing costs are factored into the equation. With the split currently being two thirds of the tab for Lathrop and a third for Manteca based on undeveloped land being protected, the cost could run into hundreds of dollars a year for owners of homes yet to be built.

And they will be picking up the full tab for protecting homes already here and standing in flood prone areas such a those in Lathrop that aren’t part of River Islands which already has such protection as well as those along the Airport Way corridor from Woodard Avenue north in Manteca plus areas such as Oakwood Shores.

Stockton, where Weston Ranch is located, plus rural areas of San Joaquin County in the flood zone, would essentially get a pass from paying for the levee work at least for now. But since the protected area would essentially add value to raw land in terms of how it can be used, it is doubtful that there won’t be some form of mechanism to spread the cost associated with the benefit.

As it stands now Manteca and Lathrop have a lot of stake and not just in terms of proposed development.

If the flood improvement work doesn’t move forward it will substantially increase the cost of many living in the non-River Islands portion of Lathrop as well as Oakwood Shores and southwest Manteca plus the Airport Way corridor once new flood insurance requirements are put in place.

The odds of a flood happening more severe than the one that started 18 years ago today when a levee failed on the Stanislaus River south of Manteca is even greater now.

That’s because silt build-up on the main San Joaquin River channel after its confluence with the Stanislaus River has never been addressed. Environmentalists saw to that contending it is now part of the habit although anecdotal evidence strongly suggests upwards of a seven-foot build-up from run-off from Westside irrigation before that was brought under control.

There is also the issue that levee repairs that have been made — including as recent as 2010- only brought them up to pervious strength given strings attached to the federal and as used to do the work had that stipulation. The levees strength in reality hasn’t been increased. Add to the fact there is more run-off upstream from the tens of thousands of homes and endless miles of streets, parking lots, sidewalks, and such added in the past 18 years from Fresno to Manteca and the flood risk has been increased.

For the levee work and therefore growth not to proceed will end up as an expensive proposition for non-River Islands homeowners in Lathrop plus thousands of homeowners on Manteca.

That expense would be in the form of either future flood damage or higher flood insurance premiums that in the best case scenario have a $500 deductible with a $250,000 cap on property loss and a $100,000 limit on personal property loss,