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Sacramento voters approve tax increase for flood control upgrades

More levees lining the American and Sacramento rivers are going to get an upgrade after 75 percent of voters living in Sacramento’s flood plains approved a property tax increase.
More levees lining the American and Sacramento rivers are going to get an upgrade after 75 percent of voters living in Sacramento’s flood plains approved a property tax increase. Sacramento Bee Staff Photo

Homeowners living in Sacramento’s flood plains have approved a property tax increase that will upgrade levees and bring the region into accordance with flood control standards.

This spring, the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency sent out approximately 160,000 ballots to property owners who live near the region’s waterways and are at risk from flooding. More than 45,000 ballots were returned, an agency official said Friday. Of those, 75 percent were cast in support of raising property taxes, passing the measure.

The new assessments will be collected annually for a 30-year period, beginning in 2017. On average, property assessments for single-family homes will increase the first year by $42.

The $496 million in local funds expected to be generated by the assessments will be used for a slew of flood control work over the next decade. The work will shore up levees along up to 11 miles of the lower American River and on the Sacramento River in Natomas and south of downtown, as well on portions of Arcade and Dry creeks. Engineers will construct deeper seepage walls inside the levees and add more protection from erosion.

The plan also includes doubling the size of the Sacramento Weir, located along the Sacramento River near the Interstate 80 overpass, to divert more floodwater into the Yolo Bypass. A portion of the local funds also will be used to raise Folsom Dam to capture more water.

In total, the projects will cost $3.7 billion, using a mix of local, state of federal funding.

When completed, the upgrades to Sacramento’s levees will satisfy a 2007 state law that requires by 2025 that all urban areas achieve protection from a catastrophic flood event that might only occur once every 200 years.

The flood control agency had to comply with Proposition 218, a state law governing special-purpose taxes. It requires landowners to vote in an election by mail.

U.S. Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, said the local funds helps her make a case for federal cash, as legislation makes its way through Congress.

“I remain committed to fighting for the resources needed to ensure our residents are as safe as possible against the threat of floods, now and into the future,” she said in a written statement.

Rick Johnson, the flood control agency’s executive director, said work to raise Folsom Dam will begin next year. Crews also will begin levee upgrades in Natomas and along Arcade and Dry creeks in 2017. Work will begin on the Pocket area’s levees in 2018.

Ryan Sabalow: 916-321-1264, @ryansabalow

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