SACRAMENTO -- Local, state and federal officials officially signed an agreement on Thursday that calls for a cooperative effort to complete a flood protection plan for the Natomas Basin.
After Hurricane Katrina, 18 miles of levees around Sacramento's newest neighborhood were beefed up and reconstructed beginning in 2007. That allowed a building ban in the area to be lifted.
But while the initial work addressed the worst sections of levees, it did not afford the goal of 200 year flood protection for the area. The agreement, which calls for collaborative funding, will allow repairs to be done on the 24 miles of levees that protect Natomas.
Congresswoman Doris Matsui has spearheaded federal funding efforts, which usually come in one-year appropriations increments.
She said climate change and the recent flooding in Louisiana are a reminder that work has to continue.
"We're in better shape than we've ever been. Thank goodness we're moving ahead anyway so our levees are strong, and they're going to bet stronger," Matsui said.
Congressman John Garamendi, who authored legislation consolidating local flood agencies when he was a state senator, said the challenge in Congress is to make sure the flow of money continues to augment state and local monies.
"We scramble for money and this project is in competition with other flood control projects around the nation but also with other programs," Garamendi said.
Chair of the Sacramento Flood Control Agency and Sacramento City Councilman Jeff Harris remembers evacuating from his River park neighborhood during the 1997 floods when water came withing two feet of topping a levee. He says reinforcing levees should be a priority.
"If any area in Sacramento floods we all lose, the economic detriment affects the entire city," said Harris.
But if all goes as planned, completion of a ring of levee protection around Natomas will be completed by 2024.