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Flood-Prone Areas Losing Federal Money For Levee Repairs

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SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – Experts say the Central Valley is susceptible to a catastrophic flood, but federal taxpayer money to pay for the damage is being cut off.

This appears to be a case of bureaucratic finger-pointing between federal and local government officials.

Levees are the only thing protecting millions of Central Valley residents from flooding. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers singled out 17 of them, saying maintenance is so bad that they are no longer eligible for federal flood repair funding.

“A levee is like a chain; it is only as good as its weakest link,” said Col. William Leady.

Leady says levee erosion, encroachment and growing vegetation are putting people’s property and lives at risk.

“Our hope is that they are repaired before that event, so that there is no problem with the levees,” said Leady.

The army’s decision takes aim at the state, which had three years to come up with a plan to fix the problems but failed to do so. The result is loss of federal funding that would go toward fixing levees damaged during the next flood.

“A potential loss of a considerable amount of money in the millions, and in the tens, and maybe even more than that of money to repair levees,” said Leady.

The decision won’t affect emergency repairs or existing funding to upgrade the levees and make special improvements.

“I think they should get their act together,” said one concerned resident.

People who live in the flood-prone areas don’t like getting caught in the middle.

“Because there is a lot of homes right here on the levee, it would be a shame if anything happened to people’s homes or families,” said another resident.

Natural Resources Defense Council calls pulling the funding “a serious warning that Californians are at risk of flooding and will be on their own to pay for costly damages.”

The Department of Water Resources tells CBS13 they are disappointed that the corps cut the funding since they’ve already spent $1.6 billion on fixes.

The corps says that’s not enough.

“The bottom line is our levee standards have to be as unforgiving as our flood waters,” said Leady.

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