Local flood officials and representatives of the Natomas neighborhood are happy that an agreement is close on a major water bill in Washington. Approval of levee repairs around flood-prone Natomas is in the legislation, although details of the actual funding will still have to be worked out with the Army Corps of Engineers.
The Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency teamed up with the state to make major repairs on 18 miles of levees that protect the neighborhood, but work on the remaining 24 miles stalled when money ran out.
“We just are glad that the Corps can start the process of getting the rest of the levee work done to protect the basin,” said SAFCA Executive Director Rick Johnson.
The bill also sets the stage for local officials to make a plea to remove Natomas from a moratorium on building placed on it by Federal Emergency Management Agency. Strict building rules, like requiring buildings to be constructed at up to 20 feet above the ground, are so impractical that all constructions has stopped for the past five years.
“That’s a long time for a community to sit without being able to build new schools, fix buildings or grow,” said City Council Member Angelique Ashby, who represents the area north of downtown Sacramento.
Natomas now has large swaths of undeveloped lots and the future growth of Sacramento will be centered there. So far, Natomas can’t benefit from the resurgence in home building or the expansion of the economy.
Ashby and other community leaders say they can now see the light at the end of the tunnel. They expect that further levee repairs may take several more years because of red tape, but they expect the moratorium to be lifted in about a year.
“To say it’s good news might be the understatement of the year,” said Ashby.