Congresswoman Doris Matsui of Sacramento has introduced sensible legislation to rescue homeowners such as Jennifer and Brad Taylor, whose dilemma was detailed in The Bee on Tuesday.
Their Natomas home was destroyed by fire in August. They are ready and willing to rebuild, but cannot because a federal building moratorium in flood-prone Natomas bars new construction and improvements to existing structures that cost more than 50 percent of their market value.
Matsui's bill would allow owners of fire-damaged homes to rebuild in high-risk flood areas like Natomas despite federal building moratoriums.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency would have to review each homeowner's situation, taking into consideration such issues as the history of flooding in the area, whether elevating the structure is feasible given the surrounding community, and whether granting a variance would help avoid blight caused by the presence of a burned-out home.
The waivers Matsui seeks would affect a handful of homeowners and they should in no way distract from the urgent need to rebuild and strengthen Natomas levees.
The rain and wind slamming Sacramento underscore the region's flood threat. Nervous residents are keeping close watch on the saturated levees.
The Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency has completed about half of the work to upgrade the levees, largely using property taxes from local residents. There are 24 miles left to do.
Unfortunately, legislation for federal money to finish upgrading the Natomas levees remains bottled up by a stubborn Republican majority in the House.
In their zealous war on "earmarks," the Republican House leadership continues to mischaracterize vital, lifesaving flood protection projects as "pork," which is banned under House rules.
The Republicans' absurdly overbroad definition of earmarks puts 100,000 Natomas residents at risk of flooding. It also threatens the public purse, the very thing the earmark ban is designed to protect.
As Katrina in New Orleans, and more recently Sandy in New York and New Jersey prove, the cost in human life and property damage after a flood is far greater than the cost of investing in the protective infrastructure needed to prevent flooding.