The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has pulled its financial support of 17 Central Valley levee system rehabilitation projects due to deficiencies in state and local maintenance planning and inadequate inspection efforts.
The 17 levee systems, which are located in or near the cities of Sacramento, Stockton and Gustine, and the census-designated places (CDPs) of Chester and Knights Landing, are part of a 2009 inspection plan for 118 systems agreed to by California entities and its representative, the California Central Valley Flood Protection Board, and the Corps called the California Central Valley Flood System Improvement Framework. Through the framework, the board would proceed with an approved plan, which it agreed to in late June, to rehabilitate the 17 levee systems out of the 118 in its control, thus nullifying the framework. Under the overall Corps Levee Safety Program, which oversees 2,000 levee systems nationally, state and local government entities are responsible for identifying and planning action on five categories of deficiencies: channel capacity, seepage, erosion, encroachments and vegetation. The Corps said in a statement that the 17 levee systems it inspected in the past few months all received unacceptable ratings due to encroachments and/or erosion issues.
In an Aug. 21 letter, the Corps notified the board that it had not adequately met its levee safety program requirements and that federal financial assistance would be halted until a more acceptable plan is forwarded.
Bill Leady, commander of the Corps’ Sacramento District, said in a statement that even though the levee systems are currently ineligible for rehabilitation assistance (the Corps spent $6.4 million on California levee repairs last year), it would “continue working with the state and local agencies toward long-term, sustainable improvements to levee systems in the Central Valley, and we will always be here to help in a flood.”
George Qualley, a flood management official (retire annuitant) at the state Department of Water Resources, says that the state and local entities “worked hard” on all the issues brought up by the Corps and was “very disappointed” it went to the next step. Qualley says he thought the Corps would be more detailed in its specific recommendations and would be more detailed in how the public would be threatened regarding, especially, the encroachment issues.
Twelve of the 17 levee systems criticized by the Corp are within the boundaries of the city of Stockton and most are overseen by San Joaquin County. The city of Stockton declared bankruptcy in June.