SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Sacramento is one of the two most flood-prone cities in the country.
Now, the River City faces a new water threat: homeless people digging into the levees the city and surrounding areas count on to protect its residents from devastation.
We first told you about this problem back in May. City leaders had told CBS13 they were putting together a task force to tackle the problem.
Now they are standing behind state legislation that they say could prevent the issue from getting worse.
In the spring, agencies found more than 80 encampments along the six miles of levee. Some of them with widespread damage, that needed immediate attention.
Since then, agencies have repaired some sites. But, we’re told fixing this isn’t cheap.
Kevin King with Reclamation District 1000 found more than 80 homeless encampments, some abandoned, along the six-mile stretch near Garden Highway in the spring.
He said, “financially, will we be able to forward our routine stuff with these anomalies?”
Most of the camps were cleared, but he says three sites had to be repaired, needing immediate and costly attention
“It was about a 25 to 30-foot width four to five feet down. We have made those repairs. Thankfully the extent of damage is not nearly what we had feared,” he said.
King says it could have been worse, and back in the spring, his team said they were very concerned.
He said, “We were fortunate that they were very high in the levee and our repair costs weren’t as much as some of the other districts.”
So exactly how much does it cost to repair damaged sites? King says RD1000 foots the bill, which can cost them between $5,000 and $10,000 per damaged site.
He says that’s tens of thousands of dollars that could have gone elsewhere.
“It’s a drain on the resources to the district,” he said. “We have a set budget every year, and try to do as much maintenance operations on routine stuff so when situations like this come up we have reserve funds to handle that.”
Darren Suin with the Sacramento Valley Flood Protection Board tells us Mother Nature can be unpredictable, and he worries about the risk a damaged levee could pose to the community living around it.
“We were concerned. Anytime someone or something damages the levee we are concerned. The uncertainty that we have out there, is we don’t know it’s such a large system,” Suin said.
When city and state leaders found the damage, some told CBS13 they would take action.
So, we asked, “what are they doing about it?”
We found many got behind AB137, which is a bill that would not only make it illegal to dig but would allow any law enforcement officer to remove physical obstructions, like tents or tarps.
Suin said, “It’s so they’re not covering the levee, nobody is covering the levee, and nobody is causing intentional damage to the levees.”
King said, “We don’t view this as a camping issue or a homelessness issue. This is a community protection issue for us.”
There are more than 1,100 miles of levees across the state, which is longer than the entire California coastline.