Sacramento and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta's risk for flooding is the highest in the country because of the city's aging levee system that has been inadequately maintained. The River City has even less protection than that of New Orleans despite spending $300 million to strengthen the Sacramento and American rivers levees that has taken place for the past 20 years.
$32 million is currently on the table for 2016 repairs, and it's being supported at a federal level. President Obama included Natomas levee repairs in his budget request for the next fiscal year - $21 million of the $32 million would come federally. However, half a billion dollars is needed to "continue to improve levees to 200-year-level flood protection", according to capradio.org.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger first declared a state of emergency for California's levees in February 2006. He executed Executive Order S-01-06 directing agencies to identify, evaluate and repair critical systems. As a result, some critical erosion sites were repaired in 2006, but the underlying structural problem for the Sacramento region and the state remains.
According the Governor's office, 33 levees have been repaired and 71 additional repairs were scheduled to be completed by September 2007. These repairs essentially retrofitted the levees with rocks on its water side to rebuild its slope to original flood level protection.
Although these repairs were done without key federal funding, state representatives and the current governor continue to introduce federal initiatives to underwrite more of the repairs that are needed. Obama's response to this by including Natomas levees in his budget is a huge step.
Even residents have taken steps toward greater protection by approving flood assessments for their area, as well as asking the city to cease building new homes in high flood risk areas.
The Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency is recommending some communities to carry flood insurance, even if the homeowner's lender is not requiring them to do so. The Federal Emergency Management Agency estimates that, over the life of a 30-year mortgage, Downtown, Midtown, Oak Park, Natomas, Land Park and East Sacramento neighborhoods face a 26 percent chance of flooding, according to the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency. Although some property owners will not have to get flood insurance because of the levee repairs in their neighborhood have decreased the risk.
For those neighborhoods who need the insurance, some may still be eligible to receive low-cost preferred flood rates.
- City of Sacramento Floodplain Information: (916) 808-5061
- County Flood Zone Information: (916) 874-7517
- Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency: (916) 874-7606