PARTNERS

By Craig W. Anderson

This is a county-maintained channel and levee within the proposed assessment area.
Photo courtesy of the SJC Flood Control and Water Conservation District

 

San Joaquin County’s Public Works Department is proposing a new program called Flood CALM [Control And Levee Maintenance] that would establish a flood conveyance and levee maintenance assessment district.

The department is responsible for maintaining and operating the county’s water channels and levees, funded by revenues from the county’s Flood Control and Water Conservation District Zone 9.

Kim Floyd of Floyd Communications, the contractor working with San Joaquin County to create the assessment district, said, “We’re intending to place a Resolution of Intention for the proposed Flood-CALM assessment on the Dec. 17 Board of Supervisors agenda.”

If approved by the supervisors, the resolution will also approve the Preliminary Engineer’s Report, and “set the date for the public hearing, and authorize the balloting process,” said Floyd. “In that case, we’re proposing to mail ballots on Jan. 31 and conduct a public hearing on March 24.”

After the approval, Floyd said, “We will launch a comprehensive public outreach effort to include public meetings, small group meetings and presentations, information mailers (newsletter style), a webpage (with assessment documents, maps and an assessment calculator), and an information hotline, among other things.”

Flood-CALM ballot

The Flood-CALM balloting process schedule:

• Ballots mailed – Friday, Jan. 31
• Public hearing-adopt resolution calling for tabulation – Tuesday, March 21
• Tabulation at 1810 Hazelton (County Public Works) – March 25-31 (or until complete)
• Ballot Tabulation, Results & Certification Memo – Tuesday, April 3

BOS meeting to Adopt Resolution of Formation; Final ER and Assessment – Tuesday, April 7 or later as needed.

The mailing of the ballots triggers a balloting period of no less than 45 days, in accordance with Prop. 218 law. “We’re allowing a total of 61 days,” Floyd said.

“Even with a ‘Yes’ vote, the Board of Supervisors must approve the resolution on April 7,” noted Floyd. “If the result is ‘No’ the Supervisors take no action and that’s the end of it.”

Voting is vital

Paul Sanguinetti, SJFB board member and Stockton East Water District board member said the upcoming vote regarding the proposed district is vital. “Those who receive ballots need to vote and send them in to be counted.”

Why is the vote vital? Ag parcel holders comprise 16.7 percent of the weighted vote by assessment value. “If we want to be sure the interests of agriculture are represented, we need a high percentage of the agricultural parcel holders to vote,” Sanguinetti said.

Dave Simpson, chair of SJFB’s Water Committee and Sanguinetti agree: All parcel holders need to vote “Whether you’re for it or against it, be sure to vote.”

Floyd pointed out that only property owners can vote and to be counted the ballots must be filled out correctly per instructions received with the ballot.

Ballot package contents

Here is what property owners will receive in the ballot package: the ballot, ballot information guide, postage paid security return envelope; ballot will identify the parcel(s) and the proposed assessment(s); a returned, valid ballot must have the answer to the question: YES or NO; signature of property owner of record or authorized representative; must be returned and received by the district prior to the close of public hearing. Ballots can be delivered by hand but must be enclosed in the security envelope.

Background

With the Katrina hurricane in New Orleans and flooding of years past setting a depressing standard for estuary floods, SJFB President David Strecker said, “Our situation here in the Delta and the areas subject to flooding are completely different from New Orleans. If a Katrina magnitude storm hits anywhere, it’s a problem. Here, we need to look at collecting the water and getting it back into the channels.” He added, “Very complicated calculations are used to set rates” of the assessment and that regulatory obstacles are commonplace.

Maintaining and operating the county’s water channels and levees necessitates more funding, thus the need for an assessment district. A presentation by San Joaquin County’s Public Works staff to SJFB’s board of directors noted that “… since 2006 [following Hurricane Katrina], state and federal agencies adopted additional flood management regulations” that are strictly enforced.

Delta very different from New Orleans

“This is all coming from what happened in New Orleans with hurricane Katrina,” said Sanguinetti. “The geography is entirely different. We need to control of the water flow into the river and we need dams to control flooding,” Sanguinetti commented.

He also said Stockton allowed developers to build in low areas and now “the price is being paid for this error in judgement.”

SJFB helped change Flood-CALM

Landowners are now being assessed for the means to meet the flood control and levee maintenance mandates. SJFB played a major role in having rangeland assessment rates adjusted, Floyd said. “Based on feedback and input from Farm Bureau representatives, we did adjust rangeland rates to properly characterize drainage from that type of property.”

Also, the following was added to the draft Preliminary Engineer’s Report: “Should the proposed assessment be approved by property owners in the district, the district expects that it would be able to allocate approximately $150,000 to $200,000 of existing Zone 9 resources to the maintenance of non-project channels in typical years.”

This was, noted Floyd, in “direct response to concerns that the proposed assessment is specifically for operations and maintenance of Project levees and channels.”

When approved, the new assessment would free up existing Zone 9 revenues for operations and maintenance of non-project channels.

Current funding is $4.47 million; the new assessment is estimated at $6.26 million.

Why an assessment district?

The county’s Public Works Channel Maintenance Division currently operates and maintains 119 miles of project channels, 112 miles of project levees, 153 miles of non-project channels as resources allow, and three miles of non-project levees.

Environmental regulations have also increased the cost of maintenance and repairs, and existing revenue sources – adopted before hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans – do not account for increased regulatory mandates.

The Public Works Flood-CALM presentation said state and federal levee rehabilitation, repair and replacement may require additional local cost share which means “… [demands] for service on project channels/levees has left little existing Zone 9 revenues for service on non-project facilities.”

Service funding requirements

The regulations aren’t nuanced: strict compliance with both state and federal mandates is required in the areas of operations, maintenance, repair, rehabilitation and replacement; environmental permitting and compliance; certification and accreditation of levees and structures; catching up on deferred maintenance; performing emergency response activities and establishing adequate reserves – to cover local cost share and future emergency responses.

“There was a complaint that the assessment district wouldn’t help everyone,” said SJFB First Vice President Ken Vogel. “But people realized that if the county suffers in an area, everyone suffers and we’ll all have to deal with that.”

He added that people should remember the floods of the 1950’s that provided the realization that “we need storage” but the intervening years created the other important question: “Where is it?”

Vogel said discussions suggested a sunset provision of five years for the district would be a good idea so that if the program worked it could be renewed and if it didn’t, it could end or be revised and new methods of funding could be instituted.

“Flood control and levee maintenance always sounds good but who pays for what benefits is a common issue,” said SJFB Second Vice President Jake Samuel. “Some rural areas are paying for flood control and levee protection and maintenance that seem to be primarily associated with urban areas.”

He also commented that those “paying for it should receive significant benefits.”

Despite the changes, SJFB Executive Director Bruce Blodgett said, “We’re seeing some real frustration from members and there are equity questions that require further consideration.”

“This affects a really big chunk of Eastern San Joaquin County,” said Simpson. “And members had some misgivings about it. But it’s good that the county’s reassessed what they originally proposed.”

Necessary evaluations

The Public Works department said the following evaluations were needed: flood conveyance through project channels (Channel Maintenance Benefit); evaluation of avoided flooding from project levees (Levee Maintenance Benefit), and evaluation of additional funding required to maintain Zone 9 project levees and channels.

The assessment district is specific to flood conveyance and levee operations and maintenance, and is unrelated to other funding measures.

Assessment

The levee operations and maintenance benefit is based on avoided damages to land and structures; flood conveyance benefits based on runoff and parcel size; relative length and effort to maintain the channel conveying flood water and benefits apportioned based on property characteristics, including location.

Contact for more information

For more information or clarification about the voting process, contact Kim Floyd, Public Outreach Consultant/SJC Public Works, at (916) 838-2666 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Interested parcel holders wanting to know what their assessment will be can contact Floyd with their parcel numbers and she will provide the assessment amount using the assessment lookup tool; the tool will be available online beginning Dec. 18.