Bill would limit building in valley

SACRAMENTO -- California would restrict building in areas in danger of flooding in the vulnerable Central Valley under a bill that is part of a five-bill package spurred by Hurricane Ka- trina and sent to the governor Friday.

The Senate sent Gov. Schwarz- enegger a bill limiting development until 2015 in areas of the Sacramento and San Joaquin river valleys without the kind of levees or other flood controls that can withstand the kind of flood that occurs once every 100 years.

The delay would give communities time to improve levees, build flood bypasses and add other protection. After 2015, newly developed areas would have to have 200-year flood protection.

Cities and counties would have until 2025 to provide 200-year flood protection for existing communities.

'Band-Aids' on levee holes

California's flood control regulations haven't changed substantially since the 1930s, said Sen. Mike Machado, D-Linden, who helped negotiate the package over the last year. For at least the last 30 years, "We've been just putting Band-Aids on holes in the levees," until Katrina devastated Louisiana, he said.

The state estimates a half- million Californians live in flood danger areas, with thousands more homes planned or under construction.

Sen. Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said the recent housing slump gives the state time to act before many of the homes are built.

"This is going to require local governments to step up," Steinberg said. "This is a road map. The success will depend on how aggressively we implement it once it becomes law."

Associations representing the building industry, cities and counties, and environmental groups all supported the compromise legislation, which was approved 27-8. Schwarzenegger has not taken a position on the bills, but Machado said the governor's Department of Water Resources was involved in the talks.

"It gives flexibility to local governments," Nick Cammarota, general counsel for the California Building Industry Association, testified during a Senate committee hearing before the vote. "How you're going to achieve your level of protection is really left to local governments."

New flood board

Other measures in the package require local governments to consider potential flood danger in drafting zoning laws, after the Department of Water Resources develops new maps of the areas at greatest risk. Cities and counties also would share in the state's liability if they allowed construction in danger areas that later flood.

A new nine-member Central Valley Flood Protection Board would replace the current seven-member state Board of Reclamation in overseeing development in flood-prone areas under a bill the Assembly sent to Schwarz- enegger on Thursday.

Three other flood control bills are awaiting final legislative action. They are among dozens of bills considered Friday that are awaiting action next week as lawmakers hurry toward their scheduled adjournment.

On the Net:

Read the bills at www.sen.ca.gov and www.assembly.ca.gov.