Natomas residents packed out the library at Two Rivers School on Thursday and by a show of hands told Sacramento city councilman Steve Hansen they first wanted to discuss the levee improvements now in progress along the Garden Highway.
“Nobody questions the need for the work,” Hansen said in the early going, to which someone in the audience replied, “I do.”
Hansen said “I feel very horrible,” about those affected by the project but “the safety of the community is the key question.”
The California Globe had previously asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency (SAFCA) if there had ever been a levee breach in the area now slated for construction. The Globe received no answer and several residents at the gathering questioned the need for the work.
John Powderly of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) showed a photo of a levee breach but it was near Elkhorn, not in the reach of the levee project along the Garden Highway, where “property acquisition is necessary.” The properties are existing homes and several homeowners at the public gathering said they were still in the dark about what the project would look like.
When the pumping station on the Natomas Main Drainage Canal had been revamped ten years ago, Reclamation District officials presented detailed drawings the finished project. The California Globe asked why similar drawings had not been provided to residents near the levee.
Powderly told the audience that the project had been authorized in 2010 but design did not start until 2018, and was now 65-95 percent complete. Powdery also told residents he would schedule a meeting on design and John Bassett, director of engineering for SAFCA addressed some of the design issues.
In the area of La Lima Way, which fronts the levee on the land side between the canal and Orchard Lane, the curb line will not move, Bassett told the residents. Streets would not be relocated and trees not moved and power poles would be moved to the toe of the levee.
The California Globe asked about the gap between the time houses are acquired and demolished. John Basset said this would be done “quickly,” but gave no specific number of days, weeks or months.
Contractors had already been retained, Bassett said, but tests would have to be conducted for lead and asbestos. One resident brought photos of a house acquired for the project that had since been ransacked.
Councilman Hansen said the demolition would be done “as quickly as possible,” adding that displaced owners can “rent back” their property. That set off a stir, with several residents protesting that the rents were “too high.”
A spokesman for the project told the California Globe the various agencies have no plans to evict indigents from hovels along the levee. In the Thursday meeting, Hansen, Bassett and Powderly announced no such plan, nor any plan to house indigents in homes acquired for demolition.
Sacramento city councilman Steve Hansen is up for reelection this year. Powderly and Bassett are not elected officials.