Levees in Sacramento's Natomas Basin again are eligible to receive federal financial assistance in the event of a disaster.
The eligibility was restored after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in July approved a letter of intent from Reclamation District 1000, which maintains the 42 miles of levees that protect Natomas. In the letter, the district vows to work toward correcting problems with man-made structures that may threaten levee stability, a problem known as encroachment.
The corps withdrew the funding eligibility in August 2012 after determining levees ringing Natomas failed to meet maintenance standards, mainly due to encroachments.
The financial assistance provides money to repair damaged or breached levees after a storm. Eligibility is restored as of Jan. 8, the date the Natomas reclamation district submitted its letter of intent. The district has until May 16, 2015, to submit a more comprehensive plan to correct deficiencies.
The maintenance rating is separate from a much larger, ongoing levee strengthening project in Natomas. Funded in part by local property taxes, the billion-dollar project is halfway complete and is intended to upgrade the region to withstand a 200-year flood. The remaining work depends on approval of a Water Resources Development Act bill in Congress, which has been stalled for more than a year.
Numerous other California levee agencies also lost access to emergency funds because of maintenance problems. This includes 32 miles of levees in Sacramento along the American River, stretching south along the Sacramento River nearly to Courtland. A trio of agencies that manage these levees is working on its own letter of intent.
A levee system directly north of Natomas and two in the Yuba City area are expected to have their funding eligibility restored soon, according to Army Corps officials.