Property owners in northwest Lodi and much of Woodbridge may not require expensive flood insurance after all.
Lodi and San Joaquin County officials are working together to make minor repairs to berms and levees that they hope will convince the Federal Emergency Management Authority to remove the neighborhoods from high-risk status.
As soon as the rain-saturated ground dries out, the city of Lodi will level out a narrow strip between Lodi Lake and the railroad tracks, which Public Works Director Richard Prima hopes will convince FEMA that flood waters from the Mokelumne River won't head southwest into the Park West neighborhood.
Residents in Park West and Woodbridge became alarmed in January, when FEMA issued a preliminary map that put those areas into a high-risk flood zone. That designation, if made permanent next year, would require property owners to spend up to $2,462 for flood insurance through the federal government.
Meanwhile, in Woodbridge, county Public Works staff and consultants are checking levees on the south bank of the Mokelumne River to see if at least the older part of the town can be relieved of having to purchase flood insurance, Deputy Public Works Director Steve Winkler said Thursday afternoon after a press briefing on the new preliminary flood-control zones.
Prima said he thinks that the area of the Mokelumne River near Lodi Lake wouldn't flood Lodi anyway, but the roughly $10,000 the city is spending may be a small price if it will exempt its residents from mandated flood insurance.
In its preliminary map, FEMA designated all of Woodbridge except for the Del Rio subdivision as a high-risk flood area along with areas of Lodi generally west of Lodi Lake, west of Mills Avenue and south to White Oak Way in the Park West subdivision.
In Woodbridge, the county is looking at three or four levees that it counted on prior to the construction of Camanche Dam in 1964. But once Camanche was constructed, the levees were considered to be unnecessary, Winkler said.
• Of those levees, 730 miles would not provide adequate protection from a 100-year flood.
• 54 miles are "provisionally accredited levees" or levees that FEMA may certify if owners can prove they meet federal standards.
• 41 miles of levees do not meet FEMA standards.
• Only 100 miles are mapped as providing protection from a 100-year flood.
"We're in the process of studying if indeed the levees are necessary," Winkler said.
If so, the county will shore them up and make its best case to FEMA, he added.
Winkler said he hopes to submit some data to FEMA within the next two weeks.
What will help Lodi and Woodbridge is that flood waters in northern San Joaquin County generally run west and slightly south, said Ron Baldwin, the county's Office of Emergency Services director. By going west, the most flood-prone areas are farmland west of Woodbridge toward Interstate 5, county officials say.
The levee work may not remove all of Woodbridge from the high-risk flood designation, Winkler said. Newer neighborhoods near the Mokelumne River's south bank may not be able to avoid the flood insurance mandate, but older parts of Woodbridge may be off the hook, he said.
Meanwhile, the city of Stockton faces considerable expense because of what FEMA considers to be flood danger along the Calaveras and San Joaquin rivers in the west side of the city.
While neighborhoods surrounding the potentially high-risk flood area won't be required to buy flood insurance, Jana Critchfield, a FEMA insurance specialist, strongly urged property owners to buy insurance.
"Six inches of water will float a car," Critchfield said. "Just 2 inches of water will cause major damage."
The press briefing in Stockton included an overview of FEMA's preliminary maps that were issued in January. Much of the same information was given at a Woodbridge Municipal Advisory Council meeting in early February.
Once the county and city of Lodi finish their attempts at reducing flood liability in Lodi and Woodbridge, they will focus on legislation adopted last year that will require 200-year flood protection rather than the 100-year standard that FEMA requires.
Senate Bill 5, authored by State Sen. Mike Machado, D-Linden, requires 200-year urban flood protection on new development. Cities and counties must submit a plan to the state by 2012 and put it into effect by 2025, Winkler said.
SB 5, signed last year, establishes flood protection requirements for local land-use decisions consistent with the Central Valley Protection Plan, according to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's Web site.