At least $15.2 million in levee improvements needed for west Elk Grove neighborhoods, proposed CNU hospital

During their meeting last night, members of the Elk Grove City Council and the public learned some stunning information. According to the State of California mandated (SB5 2007) study commissioned by the city, many of the westside Elk Grove neighborhoods and the proposed California Northstate University 400-bed are in flood danger unless over $15 million in improvements are made to existing levees.

Those were the results reported to the city council by Ric Reinhardt of Sacramento-based MBK Engineers. The study was commissioned by the city in 2017.

Reinhardt told the council their study examined 200-year flood areas. The 4.5-mile Laguna West levee, which was built by Sacramento County and is now the responsibility of the city, protects the city's western neighborhoods from the 100-year flood plain which is considered a smaller flood event in magnitude than a 200-year event.

"Based on this analysis of the water surface, the levee would need to be raised approximately three and a half feet," Reinhardt said.

Reinhardt added that "the levee doesn't meet current urban levee design criteria for 200-year flood protection." He estimated the cost to raise the levee would be $15.2 million and another study of the levee's foundation for FEMA certification.

Although it was mentioned briefly during Reinhardts's discussion, the staff report for the agenda item said the cost for the levee improvements could be up to triple the $15.2 in their estimate. The report says "along with the need to raise the height of the levees, there is also the potential for under-seepage and stability issues within the levee system. The potential costs to address these issues could add anywhere between $7 million and $30 million to the cost of achieving 200-year flood protection."
The first speaker during public comment was a resident of the Stoneke neighborhood, Jan Smutny-Jones. The majority of the Stonelake neighborhood, which includes the commercial area of the master-planned community is in the 200-year flood plain.

Smutny-Jones pointed out that the site of the for-profit California Northstate University's proposed 400-bed hospital and trauma center is in the flood plain. He also pointed out that portions of the site for the proposed hospital are would be under three to 10 feet of water in a 200-year event.

"I want to point out that the [city of Elk Grove's] general plan, policy ER two dash three, the city is to locate essential services, governmental services, essential health care facilities outside the 100 and 200-year flood zones except where such locations would be compromised," he said. "Obviously, a trauma center is an essential healthcare facility. There is nothing about this location that it is essential to be located right there."

Smutny-Jones is associated with the community group NEST - Neighbors Ensuring Sincere Transparency that is opposing the  CNU hospital project. Noting the ongoing conflict between Stonelake residents and CNU, he suggested another site be considered. 

"Rather than argue with CNU over the next five years, about the appropriateness of this hospital at that location, perhaps they can be convinced to move someplace that is a little more appropriate for the construction of such of a hospital that is truly needed outside of the 200-year flood plain," he added. 

During her comments, Elk Grove resident Lynn Wheat discussed proposed follow-up research on levee improvements. Wheat said that unlike the city's usual practice of contracting with a vendor of their choosing, a large project and expensive study, with an estimated cost over $500,000, be put out to bid.

"I hope with this amount of money it will go out to bid," she said. 

As it stands now, the CNU hospital project, estimated at $750 million, would require the demolition of the Stonelake Landing shopping center which it owns. No CNU representatives spoke during the meeting, and spokesperson Brian Holloway did not respond to an email request last night seeking comment on the 200-year flood plain report and a question asking if the for-profit school would be willing to pay for the $15.2 million levee improvements. 

After public comment, the only council member  (Mayor Steve Ly was absent) who addressed the report was  Steve Detrick who questioned public works director Bob Murdoch. Detrick was primarily interested in the funding for the needed levee improvements.

"Is there a funding mechanism in the Laguna West, one of the fee programs that covers any expense related to this, or is this something spread across citywide," Detrick asked.

Murdoch said, "there is no real good funding source at the moment." He said the city could ask property owners citywide for an extra assessment to pay for the improvements but noted those outside the 100 or 200-year flood plain would have no incentive.

Following-up, Detrick asked if there were other areas in the city other than Laguna West study area that has this potential flooding situation.

"No, we do not," Murdoch said.

Copyright by Elk Grove News © 2019. All right reserved.

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Spoons and Forks said...

The birthing center attendants better invest in a good pair of waders.

D.J. Blutarsky said...

Sen. Dianne Feinstein helped bail out the building industry with federal tax dollars to repair the Natomas levees. But sorry Elk Grove, the building industry has largely made their money already in the Stone Lakes area (and the feds don't recognize the more stricter State-imposed 200-year flood plain standard). Makes you wonder about the shady dealings that allowed Stone Lakes to be built in the 100-year flood plain in the first place huh?

Funny how fate works huh? For years, the City Council has been spending money like drunken sailors on egotistical tourism/destination projects, feasibility studies, economic development incentives, and please don't get me started on the undeveloped 100-acre soccer field outside the city-limits!

Maybe groveling at the feet of Gavin might help, or maybe Jim Cooper can come to the rescue of his old alma mater? But one thing is for sure though--the cat is out of the bag now and the City owns the levees and the liability that goes along with it.

Maybe our next city newsletter will have a clip out coupon that starts out with, "brother can you spare a dime?"

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