NEWS-LEDGER — JUNE 27, 2012 —
By Steve Marschke, News-Ledger Editor
It was a calm, sunny day on Tuesday.
The risk of a flood disaster was probably not high on the list of anxieties in the minds of most West Sacramentans that day, as regional leaders gathered to celebrate $27 million in levee improvement.
West Sacramento and its state and federal partners had just finished improving levees near the Rivers subdivision in the city’s northeast, and near the CHP academy in the northwest. Flood control officials met next to one of those levees, near the Bryte Bend Water Treatment Plant, to talk to the media about the milestones.
“We cared about levees pre-Hurricane Katrina and we certainly care after Katrina,” commented Mayor Christopher Cabaldon. “Flood control is our number one priority.”
Cabaldon noted that local taxpayers actually opted to tax themselves to raise the required 10 percent “local share” of the expected half-billion dollars in improvements needed to bring up the city’s flood protection rating.
That local share helped fund the two projects at hand.
“That, coming from our local residents, allowed us to come up with the 10 percent local cost and allowed us to obtain the other 90 percent from the state of California,” said Cabaldon.
Bill Kristoff, a city council member who sits on the inter-agency West Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency, said the region has set its goals fairly high. West Sacramento is aiming for “200 year flood protection,” which means it expects a one-in-200 chance of a major flood in any year.
“We aren’t stopping until all 52 miles of these levees reaches a 200-year level of flood protection,” said Kristoff.
These two “early implementation projects” on the levees were chosen partly because they were needed and they could be financed and completed ahead of the really big projects needed later. The city will next turn its attention to another “early implementation program” project in Southport.
The first two projects included construction of “slurry walls” to block seepage through the levees. In some points near the Rivers, the slurry walls reach as much as 130 feet deep.
In the middle of the presentation Tuesday, Keith Swanson (flood management division chief at the state Department of Water Resources) reminded the attendees why these improvements were a big deal.
He recalled a high-river day when “boils” were spotted inside a nearby levee.
“On a beautiful summer day like this, it is difficult to remember that back in 1997, the city of West Sacramento was almost the victim of a major disaster,” said Swanson. “(Workers) noticed the land side of the leveee, toward the ditch, had begun to slough off. It got worse.”
They made interim fixes, but the danger was real, said Swanson.
And even if and when the city reaches its 200-year risk goal, that’s not the same as “no risk,” Mayor Cabaldon commented.
“We can’t get the risk down to zero,” he said.
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Copyright News-Ledger 2012