Facing the peril of potential flooding of many new subdivisions built on flood plains, Assemblyman Dave Jones, D-Sacramento, introduced a bill to make it mandatory for homeowners to buy federal flood insurance for homes built where there is an annual one-in-200 chance of flooding. Presently, the state is on the hook for flood damage. Jones' bill required mortgage lenders to make certain homebuyers had flood insurance.
Mortgage banking lobbyists defeated the bill's enforcement provision in the Assembly Insurance Committee Wednesday. They argued that, as a result of Katrina, the federal flood insurance program was probably bankrupt so why buy federal flood insurance.
It's an absurd argument but lobbyists at public meetings have to come up with something to conceal the deal going down in private. Evidently, bankers believe they have a right to profits from their "creative" mortgages and to an endless speculative housing boom, more of it inevitably encroaching on flood plains in the Central Valley.
While developer sharks circle the Legislature daily, we don't often see the killer whales come up the river and dance on their tails. Jones, regardless of the fate of his bill, should be thanked for flushing out a bit of the financial system behind CalGrowth, Inc, which rules this state today in an absolute style not seen since the days of The Railroad.
Nine of the 10 members of the committee are from Southern California. They watched safely from the riverbank as Jones' bill and political reason were devoured by greed. While this is a perfectly normal spectacle at the state Capitol, some interest was added by the rising level of the river in which the lobbyist feeding frenzy occurred.
How they voted against the critical enforcement provision of AB 1898.
Ron Calderon, D-Montibello
Dario Frommer, D-Los Angeles
Betty Karnette, D-Long Beach
Sally Lieber, D-Santa Clara
Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara
Tom Umberg, D-Santa Ana
John Benoit, R-Riverside (vice chair)
Russ Bogh, R-Beaumont
Dennis Mountjoy, R-Monrovia
Juan Vargas, D-San Diego (chair)
Meanwhile, the local whining industry goes on per usual. Local government permits building on flood plains and goes whining to state and federal governments for "relief" when flood plains flood. Poor little Merced, whose city and county governments constantly raise the salaries and benefits for, at least, their "top" employees -- it just can't buy protection from floods, no matter how much money its public officials are investing in real estate.
Our leadership, in an economy fatted on every kind of government funding from cotton subsidies to UC Merced that still cannot produce enough work for its citizens, is adamantly against any government intervention except one kind: when state or federal funds flow into local coffers like Mariposa runoff.
The flood game is going to get worse due to the number of acres uphill and upstream from Merced that have been paved over and roofed over by the UC Merced-induced building boom.
Local leadership's first play in the flood game is to try to convince itself and the
remaining speculators that they are trying to do something and that floods will never,never happen again in Merced.
Its second play is going to be to blame environmentalists and natural resource agencies for floods. About the only people dumb enough to buy this are going to be real estate speculators still in this market, going nuts losing money. But a lot of them work for the county so this fable has a good start. Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Vernal Pool Shrimp Slayer-Merced, is going to be whining to the leaden heavens as the rain comes down that flood damage is anyone's -- absolutely anyone's -- fault but his, beginning with railroading the UC campus through without proper environmental protection.
Local leadership is going to disappear behind its pointing fingers. You'll see a strange creature, something like a Sea urchin, rolling in and out of the county administration building, all fingers, no faces, no names. Or perhaps you'll see it floating down an MID canal, because MID isn't a flood control agency.
Absolutely the only thing real about this farce is flood water.
Estimates at $9.72M for flood damages...Doane Yawger
First estimates from flooding earlier this week in Merced peg damage at $9.72 million...total is certain to go up as more homes, farms, businesses and public facilities are assessed.
County still awaiting disaster relief from governor's office. Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, told Schwarzenegger that flooding was overwhelming local response capabilities...state assistance is needed and warranted. Ted Selb said the MID's canals sustained considerable damage...city crews were cleaning out culverts and removing obstructions from pipes to open up waterways, cleaning mud and debris off streets...water rose into streets and into some yards this week...crews Thursday morning cut a 40-foot swath in Sandy Mush Road to let water
drain on wetlands and nonproductive farmland.
Builders, schools can't reach deal...David Chircop
On Tuesday, four school districts and the 26-member Building Industry Association of Central California walked away from the negotiation table again without a deal. In recent months, every major housing project before the city and county have been met with calls from educators to impose building moratoriums. March 10 offer by builders to pay the Merced City School District $3.55 per square foot for new developments. State law requires at least $2.48
per square foot...district made a counteroffer of $4.39, which was turned down by the BIA. In the meantime, construction and land costs have climbed substantially, and the buying power of funds collected for new schools has diminished...district says it will face an $88 million shortfall needed to build new facilities in the next 10 years if fees aren't increased.
We can prevent floods in future...Our View
We have a sense that the finger-pointing has just begun. Merced Irrigation District officials and County Supervisor Deidre Kelsey say the disaster could have been avoided if the federal government and the Army Corps of Engineers had finished water control projects. It's clear that a flood like Tuesday's can be avoided if the right people get together and make important decisions. Next time, a flood could be more catastrophic and cause injuries and even deaths. Our leaders must find a way to make sure there isn't another "next time."
Editorial: Banking on clear skies
Mortgage industry weakens key flood bill
Sacramento Bee -- April 7, 2006
Mortgage banking in California is a multibillion-dollar business. It has thrived with the state's real estate boom and the proliferation of homes built in the low-priced floodplains of the Central Valley.
This industry also is enormously exposed. If and when a major flood occurs, the banking industry will be saddled with waterlogged, worthless homes. As in New Orleans, foreclosures will be rampant. Someone will be left holding a very soggy bag.
You might think that mortgage banks would support - or at least want to discuss - a measure to require flood insurance on vulnerable properties. Instead, the industry is using the same deceptive tactics it employs to sell questionable products (such as zero down payment, interest-only loans) to kill a bill by Assemblyman Dave Jones of Sacramento.
Before Wednesday, Jones' AB 1898 made federal flood insurance a condition of obtaining a mortgage in areas with a one-in-200 chance of flooding in any given year. Jones' bill would have required mortgage lenders to enforce the provision, which made sense because lenders have as much to lose as homeowners.
Unfortunately, the banking industry seems more concerned about short-term profits than long-term survivability. Mortgage bankers worry that an insurance requirement would scare off prospective home buyers. They used some highly deceptive arguments to effectively gut AB 1898 ...
GOP lawmakers revive Auburn Dam debate; SAVING SACRAMENTO DURING FLOOD AT ISSUE
San Jose Mercury-News – 4/7/06
By Erica Werner, Associated Press
WASHINGTON - Key Republican lawmakers said Thursday that building a dam on the American River
at Auburn is the only way to protect Sacramento against catastrophic flooding that might occur once every 500 years.
But the head of the California Department of Water Resources cautioned against losing focus on flood-control projects now under way that are meant to give 200-year protection to the region.
Sacramento is now protected at only the 100-year level -- the lowest of any large urban area in the nation.
``Our focus right now in the state is that we need to be sure we get these improvements and not get distracted by the next debate over Auburn Dam,'' Department of Water Resources Director Lester Snow testified at a hearing of the House Resources Committee's subcommittee on energy and water.
``The debate in the past has actually delayed investment in flood improvements in the region,'' Snow said.
Before Snow spoke, committee chair Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Stockton, and subcommittee chair Rep. George Radanovich, R-Fresno, both spoke in favor of an Auburn Dam, underscoring growing congressional interest in reviving the controversial project years after it seemed to be abandoned for good ...
San Joaquin River Continues To Rise; Mossdale Mobile Home Park Evacuated
KCRA Channel 3 (Sacramento) – 4/7/06
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Heavy runoff from recent storms is expected to tax the San Joaquin River in the coming days, state water officials said Thursday.
The river near Vernalis west of Modesto will likely reach flood stage within about five days or so, said Gary Bardini of the state Department of Water Resources.
At the Mossdale Moblie Home Park, near Manteca, a residents are packing up their belongings and moving out as the river continues to rise. A mandatory evacuation is in effect for the area.
"We've got good weather and that's going to make people wait as long as possible ... sometimes you have to get your feet a little bit damp before it's time to move," Lathrop-Manteca Fire spokesman Jim Monty said.
Reservoirs that feed the San Joaquin are nearing capacity in many cases, making significant water releases necessary. ..
"Our goal is to try to maintain flows at a level that the flood control system should perform adequately," said Bardini, noting that officials are most concerned about the San Joaquin.
But officials are also expecting more wet weather. Another storm will hit the region late Friday, with rain lasting off and on over the weekend.
Longer-range forecasts show more rain in the coming week as well.
"The good news, of course, is that we are in a break right now," said Elizabeth Morse of the National Weather Service. "The bad news is that it ends tomorrow."
Morse said the coming storm will hit hardest in Central California south of Interstate 80.
Thunderstorms are possible, posing a problem for some areas that are already saturated.
"The problem with showers and thunderstorms is that you can drop quite a bit of precipitation in a short period of time," Morse said. "Half an inch of rain in 30 minutes is going to be a real problem in some of the areas where we already have standing water."
Snow levels from this cold storm in the Sierra will remain relatively low, so officials do not expect the problem of huge runoff caused by rain falling on snow.
"Overall, this is a much more gentle system," Morse added. "Unfortunately, it's coming right on the heels of a pretty potent system."
In Calaveras County, those evacuated from about 100 houses in the La Contenta subdivision earier in the week were allowed to return home on Thursday.
A small dam at La Contenta, located near Valley Springs, threatened to fail on Tuesday. Crews have reinforced the dam with sandbags and plastic sheeting.
Thanks to calm weather Wednesday night, the Tuolumne River crested below flood stage in Stanislaus County Thursday morning.
People in the area were particularly worried about the area where Cry Creek meets the Tuolumne. The water, which surpassed levels seen during huge January storms, rose to within feet of a few homes.
In the Sierra, resorts reported a heavy blanket of new snow. At Mammoth Mountain in Mono County, the resort reported 23 inches of fresh snow, resulting in total depths of up to 264 inches in some places. #