Assemblymembers Cooper, McCarty introduce levee protection legislation to thwart illegal excavations

Two California Assemblymembers introduced legislation meant to address a growing problem in the Sacramento region - damage to levees from encampments.

That legislation, Assembly Bill 1958, was introduced by Assemblymembers Jim Cooper (D - Elk Grove) and Kevin McCarty (D - Sacramento). The bill would give authority to local law enforcement agencies to remove obstructions or alteration to levees deemed to compromise their structural integrity.

There have been recent reports of illegal excavations near encampments along the region's 1,600 miles of levees. These excavations threaten the integrity of levees and could lead to failure should an extended rain event occur. 

In one example reported by the Manteca Bulletin, one encampment saw a tunnel burrowed into a levee along the San Joaquin River. Bloomberg reports the cost of the damage repair to levees from the excavation can cost from $5,000 to $10,000 per site not to mention the potential extensive property damage should a failure occur.  

“Sacramento is no stranger to flooding, we’ve seen levees break and how devastating it can be to our community,” Cooper said. “Protecting the integrity of our flood control infrastructure is vital."

If approved and signed into law, the bill would prohibit a person from "concealing, defacing, destroying, modifying, cutting, altering, or physically or visually obstructing any levee that is part of the State Plan of Flood Control." Also, it would authorize the Central Valley Flood Protection Board or its designee, or a local agency that maintains the levee to inspect and remove any physical or visual obstructions placed or alterations made to any levee and for these provisions to be enforced by a peace officer.

The bill will be assigned to an Assembly committee and is expected to be heard in early March. 

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