Less than a month after water first rushed into Jose Vargas’ house in Point Pleasant, another round of storms in February brought more flooding, forcing his family to evacuate as most of their belongings were ruined.
Sitting in a borrowed trailer behind an unofficial evacuation center at Point Pleasant United Methodist Church last month, Vargas said he didn’t know what to do.
“We’re not going to be able to keep up with this,” he said. “We lost some of the stuff last time. This time it’s worse. Couches, beds, clothes – everything is under the water.”
This week, Vargas said he’s still working through the insurance bureaucracy, trying to get some money to repair his home.
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At a Sacramento County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, residents choked back emotion as they talked about the damage to their property or showed pictures of their losses. Heavy storms in January and February twice flooded Point Pleasant, Franklin Pond and Beach Stone Lake in rural south Sacramento County.
Supervisors told staff to develop two programs to prevent future devastation for residents like Vargas.
He said the most viable option seems to be fixing what he can, raising his house off the ground – and selling it to move elsewhere.
The county is considering as one option elevating homes in the areas that suffered flooding.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency offers grants for home elevation, but many Point Pleasant residents don’t meet the criteria because they would rather use fill than stilts or because the cost-benefit analysis doesn’t come out in their favor.
County staff proposed starting a county-based home elevation program in which the county would put up 75 percent of the cost and homeowners would pay the rest.
The county has $7.7 million put aside for flood mitigation in the Point Pleasant Beach Stone Lake area, roughly from Twin Cities Road to north of Laguna Boulevard and from slightly east of Highway 160 to Franklin Boulevard.
Mike Peterson, head of county water resources, said he is ready to put together an elevation program that can move forward as quickly as possible. The county would identify homes to raise before the program is fully established. He said he would meet with building permit staff to make sure residents’ requests are handled efficiently.
But lifelong Point Pleasant resident and unofficial spokesman Walt Hoppe said a lot of damage isn’t to homes – it’s to farmland, outbuildings and dairies.
“Hundreds and hundreds of acres of farmland is destroyed because they’ve been in standing water, some for more than 60 days,” he said.
Vargas said he lost cars and tractors to the water and his horse barn suffered heavy damage, none of which will be covered by his insurance.
Hoppe wants a barrier along Lambert Road south of Point Pleasant. When the community floods, it’s often because water backs up from the south, flowing over Lambert Road and into Point Pleasant.
But building a barrier would put the county in a tough spot because it could redirect water and flood other communities, leaving the county liable for damage.
Instead, staff proposed creating a district, similar to a community services district, that could build a temporary barrier during a flood if water comes close to topping Lambert Road.
Hoppe presented photos of barriers erected by other communities, saying he just wants the ability to do what other areas are allowed to do.
Supervisor Don Nottoli, who represents the area, told staff to come up with something practical and simple so that residents don’t have to watch floodwaters creep toward them over Lambert Road without a way to stop the flooding.
Point Pleasant is no stranger to flood danger, but Hoppe, 77, said the agricultural area wasn’t originally a flood plain.
“Improvements downstream from us have essentially shifted the flood plain to this area,” he said. “It gets worse and worse as they develop.”
Development north of Point Pleasant and reclamation districts throughout the Delta have forced water into narrow channels that end up overflowing into fields and homes that previously would have been safe, he said.
“It’s fairly complex of an issue,” he said. “It’s not like just water from the stream escapes.”