Residents of what could become an expanded flood plain zone in Woodbridge and northwest Lodi were angry at the idea of having to pay as much as $1,400 per year for flood insurance.
"It's horrible. They're out of their frickin' mind," said Connie George, who has lived on Mosswood Drive for seven years. "We're so protected, with our parks being dug out."
George and other residents referred to nearby Peterson Park, which has playing fields below street level to collect stormwater.
But the recently released maps refer to flood areas created by a "100-year flood," which would spill over the Mokelumne River and overwhelm the city's catch basins.
Statistically speaking, a 100-year flood means that the Lodi area has a one percent chance each year to face disaster, said Steve Winkler, San Joaquin County's deputy public works director.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency drew preliminary flood plain maps that would include all of Woodbridge, plus the part of Lodi generally west of Lodi Lake, west of Mills Avenue and as far south as White Oak Way.
If the new flood plain map is approved about a year from now, homeowners could pay as much as $1,400 per year, according to FEMA regional engineer Kathy Schaefer. But if the insurance is purchased before the final map is adopted, it will be less than $800 per year, Schaefer said.
"You're protecting your family for as much (money) as your cable bill," she added.
Currently, flood insurance costs $317 per year for a $250,000 house containing $100,000 worth of contents, according to the city of Lodi and two local insurance agents.
However, homeowners who have fully paid off their residence and aren't making mortgage payments are exempt from the requirement to purchase insurance, Schaefer said.
"But we strongly encourage everyone to buy flood insurance," she said.
FEMA officials will meet on Tuesday with Lodi and Stockton city officials to determine if the boundaries are accurate, Schaefer said. Tuesday's meeting at 1 p.m. in Stockton is not a public meeting, as previously reported. A public meeting will be held at a later date.
Based on information from the two cities, San Joaquin County and the public, the boundaries might change before the final map is approved a year from now, Schaefer said.
"They're draft, working maps," she said. "We want the map to be accurate."
Maps are being revised as FEMA converts its paper maps into a digital GIS format, Schaefer said. In converting the maps, she said, FEMA engineers discovered that the levees protecting northwest Lodi and Woodbridge haven't been certified by a licensed professional engineer or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. That means that FEMA has to go on the assumption that there is no levee to protect the area, Schaefer said.
Cal Pitto, who has lived on Evergreen Drive for 13 years, lives about 150 feet north of White Oak Way, so he's barely within the preliminary flood plain area.
"Man's that's hard to swallow," Pitto said. "When is this flood supposed to happen? After global warning and before the ice age?"
Pitto doesn't see how his neighborhood would flood, because it would require Camanche Dam east of Clements to break.
George, who lives on Mosswood Drive, said homeowners should be able to choose whether or not to purchase flood insurance.
Lodi residents may submit public comments by Feb. 15 to the city's Public Works Department, 221 W. Pine St., Lodi, CA 95240.
Residents in Woodbridge and other unincorporated areas may submit comments to the San Joaquin County Public Works Department, 1810 E. Hazelton Ave., Stockton, CA 95205. Comments will be forwarded to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
FEMA is looking for factual errors only, so people submitting comments would need to have better survey information than FEMA has, said FEMA Regional Engineer Kathy Schaefer.
"If they don't like what they see, that's another story," she said.
Source: Federal Emergency Management Agency.
"We live with or without earthquake insurance," George said. "They take away too much of our rights.
"If it goes wrong, we'll pay for it, like our fence went down," she said. "My neighbor and I are paying for it."
Two residents from northwest Lodi and one from Woodbridge were also critical of the FEMA proposal, but they declined to give their names.
Pitto said that with many homeowners already facing foreclosures, the cost of flood insurance could force more people to sell their homes.
Ron Baldwin, who heads the county's Office of Emergency Services, admits that FEMA's maps are somewhat arbitrary when it comes to drawing the line at White Oak Way.
"This is somewhat of an academic exercise," said Baldwin, who says that his office has nothing to do with FEMA or the flood plain map.
Pitto and other residents say they're not concerned about a catastrophic flood hitting the Lodi area.
"If it happens, frickin' let it happen," Pitto said. "I'll get over it."