While this story from the Sacramento Bee about houses too close to the levee is tragic for the homeowners, the underlying issue for everyone is that Sacramento is the second most prone city in the country for major flooding, behind only New Orleans.
An excerpt from the Bee story.
“For decades, Sacramento’s Pocket neighborhood has offered thousands of homeowners an idyllic lifestyle along a broad bend of the Sacramento River. A few hundred riverfront homeowners enjoy additional pleasures thanks to backyards that reach across the levee, with private access to the river.
“This unique lifestyle may be changing, however, amid more stringent state and federal efforts to protect Sacramento from catastrophic floods.
“In short, some of those waterfront backyards may have gone a few feet too far. Some backyard structures – swimming pools, sheds, retaining walls and fences – interfere with levee maintenance and may threaten levee stability.
“Considered “encroachments” under the law of flood control, they create weak points, engineers say, in the levee itself, a public structure that protects every Sacramentan. Encroachments have been a problem for decades, but in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans they’re getting renewed attention.
“We’ve got close to maybe a dozen, maybe two dozen swimming pools either too close to the levee or actually encroaching on the levee itself,” said Len Marino, chief engineer at the Central Valley Flood Protection Board, a state agency. “It’s a mess. We have to somehow deal with that.”
“In August, citing encroachments, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ruled that most levees in Sacramento failed maintenance inspections, including those on the south bank of the American River. Encroaching structures, it said, prevent access for levee inspections and stand in the way of battling seepage, erosion or a levee break.
“The ruling was not just symbolic. It eliminated Sacramento’s access to millions of dollars in federal disaster funds to rebuild levees in the event of a flood. This is an unprecedented and worrisome event for a city with a flood danger recognized as second-worst in the nation – after only New Orleans.”