President Barack Obama Signs Legislation Authorizing Funding to Improve Natomas Levees

WASHINGTON, D.C – Today, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and Mayor Pro Tem Angelique Ashby were in attendance at the White House when President Barack Obama signed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA).

The $12.3 billion measure sets policies, programs and projects for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and authorizes 34 projects related to waterways, harbor deepening, environmental restoration and flood control.

For Natomas, the bill authorizes funding (approximately $600 million) to finish the $1 billion in improvements that are needed to make the levees safe. These improvements will help protect the lives of over 100,000 residents and $7 billion in property. If work begins next year, it is expected to be completed in 2020.

“Today is a great day for Natomas, Sacramento and our entire region,” said Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson. “This bill starts us on a journey toward bringing true flood protection to our region. We have seen the destruction that can occur from severe weather events across the country and the levees protecting the Natomas basin have dire needs and are currently extreme flood hazards.

On May 20th, the House approved the WRRDA conference report, H.R. 3080, by a vote of 412 to 4.  Then, on May 22, the Senate passed the bill by a vote of 91 to 7.  This legislation is one of the few bills that has passed both the House and Senate by an overwhelming margin and was developed in a bipartisan fashion.

“Today shows us that great things can happen when Washington moves beyond partisan politics,” said Mayor Johnson.” I want to thank the President, Senator Boxer and Chairman Shuster for their leadership. And of course, we could not have a more tireless advocate on this issue than Congresswoman Doris Matsui here in DC.”

The Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency, chaired by Sacramento Mayor Pro Tem Angelique Ashby, has already upgraded 18 miles of the 42 miles of levees surrounding the Natomas basin using $400 million in state flood control funds and local property taxes. Today’s signing is a major step in seeing the levees completed.

“Being part of this process has been an honor for me,” said Mayor Pro Tem Angelique Ashby representing Sacramento City Council District 1. “My community of North Natomas has worked hard for this day and I am so pleased that families will be able to rebuild their homes, neighborhoods will be completed and our schools will be able to grow to accommodate the increasing student population. This is an historic moment for Natomas and the City of Sacramento.”

Following the WRRDA signing, FEMA will begin a “remapping” process that is necessary to lift the Natomas building moratorium. FEMA has said it can complete this process within 12 to 18 months. Following the WRRDA signing, Congress must pass an appropriation to allocate the $600 million to the levee improvement project.