Taboo Continues

In this editorial from the Bee on Thursday, January 26, the important thing to note is the apparent continued taboo, in the plan presented, against including the option of building a dam to protect us from floods.

Here is an excerpt.

“A well-rounded strategy for flood protection in the Central Valley must have multiple elements. These include stronger levees, better mapping of flood hazards, coordinated emergency planning, insurance requirements for those at risk and assurance that local governments won’t approve new development in areas that can’t be reasonably protected.

“A bill by Assemblywoman Lois Wolk, D-Davis, ventures into that latter realm, which is why it faces a tough fight today on the Assembly floor. The real estate and development industries are wary of any state attempt to control development in flood plains, even though California faces multibillion-dollar liabilities whenever a levee breaks.

“Wolk’s bill, AB 802, would require cities and counties to assess flood hazards when they amend their general plans. This is entirely reasonable. Under state law, local governments must assess seismic hazards and fire dangers when planning development. Given the threat of a Katrina-style flood, local planners should also assess flood risks.

“The question then becomes: What degree of risk? Under Wolk’s bill, planners would have to evaluate which areas face the chance of a 200-year flood, roughly the type of flood that swamped New Orleans. The bill wouldn’t restrict new development, but it would prompt locals to mitigate and reduce risk.

“The building industry – which helped kill Wolk’s bill last year, prior to Katrina – notes that federal and state agencies haven’t yet mapped the 200-year flood zone. Uncertainties, they fear, could complicate the planning process and provide legal fodder for no-growth groups.

“Wolk’s requirement might tie up some projects, but it also could have many desirable results.

“Since development decisions would hinge on good mapping, FEMA and the state would finally face pressure to produce this cartography. The governor has proposed funding to update flood plain maps.

“Ultimately, better planning will aid, not hurt, the cause of housing. For developers, the worst kind of uncertainty occurs when their properties are underwater.”

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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