Understanding the San Joaquin Area Levee Construction & Maintenance Ballot

On March 16, 2023, the San Joaquin Area Flood Control Agency Board authorized balloting for a proposed property assessment to fund levee construction and maintenance. Assessment ballots have been mailed to affected property owners. Ballots must be returned by June 8, 2023. The SJAFCA’s property assessment for a property can be calculated here

Restore the Delta encourages property owners to vote FOR the assessment so state and federal money to come to our region for flood control.

Our Community is Threatened by Massive Flooding

As California’s weather becomes more extreme, floods and drought are becoming the new normal. Unfortunately, San Joaquin County and cities like Stockton are not ready to combat it. Floods aren’t new for Stockton, but the upcoming climate change storms and the faulty integrity of our 100-year-old levees do not stand a chance against them. 
Stockton is ranked one of the most diverse cities in California. Due to decades of disinvestment, the city’s only defense against flood are decade-old, leak-prone levees. Federal studies find that the levees are subject to burst with enough runoff from the mountains as it moves down and northward along the San Joaquin, potentially inundating the city with 10 to 24 feet of water. 
This would be a humanitarian disaster on the scale of Hurricane Katrina. This flood risk only increases with climate change and sea level rise due to increased rainfall and runoff in the San Joaquin watershed compared to the Sacramento watershed. Furthermore, Stockton faces flood risk from all sides: both the San Joaquin and Calaveras rivers flood during rain events, and high tides from the Pacific can exacerbate flooding via the Delta. Though overtopping and levee breaks are a major concern for the city and San Joaquin region, localized flooding can also occur due to high groundwater tables that can seep into foundations from the Delta during Ark storm events and street design/infrastructure that are not equipped to drain or move high volumes of water. 

Facing the Flood Threat in San Joaquin County
The San Joaquin Area Flood Control Project is responsible for reducing flood risk for the greater-Stockton metropolitan region through planning, financing, and implementing projects that will improve levee construction and maintenance, and support programs to enhance protection. Though they have garnered support to access areas and create master plans, the major constraint in completing these projects is funding. At the same time, state and federal regulations for flood protection are changing and becoming stricter. As a result, 90,000 properties in Stockton face two types of risk: physical flooding, and financial impacts from changes to state and federal regulations (mandatory flood insurance and building restrictions). The best way to combat both risks in the greater Stockton metropolitan region is to improve and properly maintain levees. 

Complicated Funding Requires Local Cost-Sharing

Currently, SJAFCA is partnering with the US Army Corps of Engineers and the CA Central Valley Flood Protection Board on the $1.4 Billion Lower San Joaquin River Project. The project will strengthen 23 miles of levees closer to 200-year level protection along the Calaveras and San Joaquin Rivers. Ninety percent ($1.26B) of all project costs will be paid by state and federal funding while the remaining ten percent ($140M) must be cost-shared with the community. Due to funding constraints, local money is needed to match and qualify for available federal and state funding and achieve a higher level of protection for life and property. 

Inadequate local funding can result in a loss of $1.26 billion in state and federal funding for the Lower San Joaquin River Project. If this were to occur, the Stockton community would then be responsible for paying 100 percent of the costs for necessary levee improvements moving forward. In addition to that, Zone 9 will not have funding for deferred levee maintenance and regulatory requirements and properties will experience an increased risk of flood. While looking at near and long-term financial impacts, SJAFCA finds that properties will likely experience a loss of FEMA accreditation, thus resulting in mandatory flood insurance for all properties with mortgages, higher flood insurance rates, and a loss in eligibility for federally-funded levee repairs after a flood emergency. 

If residents have any further questions on details concerning the ballot, their property, or anything related, please contact the assessment hotline at (209) 475-7010 or email LCMA@sjgov.org SJAFCA will also hold community meetings. The Community Meeting Schedule can be found here.

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