AP STORY: Levee make-overs lead to more development, higher flood risk

Gosia Wozniacka AP STORIES

Here’s an accountability story I worked on for several weeks. At the end of December, the state of California released a little-noticed document, the long-awaited flood control plan for the state’s Central Valley. The plan called for major financial investments to fix the state’s levees and other infrastructure, and mentioned that about $3 billion in voter-approved bonds was already spent or appropriated for various projects. I wrote a daily story about the plan.. and then started looking into where that $3 billion went. Since the state did not want to provide me with a ready-made list, I created a huge spreadsheet of all the projects financed thus far. The largest expenditures, it turns out, were going to fixing levee systems in newly-developing areas. Essentially, for a community hoping to do more development, getting a levee make-over means it can continue to develop. That’s because if levees fail to be accredited to a federal standard, it can lead to a development moratorium… something local officials fear — hence the race to fix levees, hence developers paying to provide the local share of the repair expenses. Here’s the story I wrote: link to PDF

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