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Elk Grove Citizen

Levee District Makes Sheldon Repairs With Grant

Apr 04, 2024 10:14AM ● By Gail Bullen, River Valley Times Reporter

An aerial image shows emergency levee repairs at the end of Bradley Ranch Road in Sheldon after a high-water event on March 2. Courtesy photo

SACRAMENTO REGION, CA (MPG) - A $390,000 award from the California Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) to reimburse 2023 storm damage repairs and three emergency levee repairs in early March in Sheldon were topics when the Reclamation District 800 (RD800) Board of Trustees met at the Wilton Community Center on March 21.
The board also took in an update about efforts to secure $5 million in reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for other emergency repairs after the January 2023 storms and approval to fix three levees in Sloughouse downstream from Rancho Murieta. 
Another update was that a $500,000 planning grant secured for the district by State Sen. Roger Niello had been reinstated.
Reclamation District 800 maintains and repairs 34 miles of privately-owned levees along the Cosumnes River between Rancho Murieta and Freeman Road off Dillard Road in Wilton and Freeman Road off Grant Line Road in Sheldon. The funding to maintain the levees at a 10-year flood standard comes from an assessment district that generates only $514,000 a year. The January 2023 storms broke the district’s levees in three locations and caused massive erosion elsewhere. Already in debt, the district increased its line of credit to make more than $6.5 million in emergency repairs. As of the March meeting, Reclamation District 800 owed $7.125 million to the Bank of Stockton. 
Cal OES reimbursement
On March 14, the California State Office of Emergency Services announced the approval of more than $390,000 in reimbursements to Reclamation District 800 under the California Disaster Assistance Act. The funding was to help cover the costs of two emergency levee repairs after the January 2023 storms.
The two projects were a levee break at the end of Fig Road that cost $758,000 to repair and massive erosion at the end of Lee School House Road that cost $1.72 million.
District engineer Patrick Ervin won fast-track approval to fund the two repairs from the National Resource Conservation Service, which is a division of the federal Department of Agriculture. While the district bore the upfront costs, the National Resource Conservation Service provided 75% reimbursement.  
Ervin also applied for reimbursement of the district’s 25% share from the California Office of Emergency Services. While the office typically subtracts 6.25% from such reimbursements, it paid the entire amount. The exception was granted because Ervin had requested a waiver due to the district’s financial straits. 
Ervin told the board he was hopeful that the State Office of Emergency Services also will pay the district’s 25% share of FEMA reimbursements for other levee repairs after the January 2023 storms.  
New emergency repairs
Ervin reported on three new repairs initiated after a March 2 high water event damaged levees on the Sheldon side of the river. 
“Although it was projected to be just above the monitor stage, the river came up faster and sooner than we thought. It was a lot higher than they projected at 2½ feet below flood level,” Ervin said. “We noticed some seepage coming through the levee we had to take care of so we declared an emergency.”
The most substantial damage occurred along the levee adjacent to the Bradley Ranch breach in Sheldon, stretching the length of a football field before its repair in 2023. Ervin noted that the new site exhibited sloughing on the land side, with water emanating from rodent holes, necessitating extensive repairs carried out by Asta Construction.
“I think it was our next most likely break but we took care of that,” Ervin said.
Additional damage was identified at mile markers 21.2 and 21.8 on the Sheldon riverbank downstream from the Folsom Canal. At one location, situated at a sharp bend in the river, significant erosion was observed, exacerbated by the rising water levels.
Ervin estimated the total cost of the three repairs to be about $300,000.
During discussions, Ervin and the board addressed a recurring issue regarding Asta Construction's practice of adding a 15% time and materials charge to invoices to cover subcontractor management and material transportation expenses. Concerns arose as FEMA reportedly denied some claims based solely on this 15% overhead charge.
Ervin highlighted the dilemma: "The state mandates a 15% charge for these services, yet FEMA disapproves."
Rebecca Smith, the district's contract attorney, acknowledged this challenge as common in other districts, particularly in emergency situations.
FEMA funding
Ervin provided an update on his efforts to secure FEMA funding following the January 2023 storms. However, the uncertainty persists regarding whether the district will receive this funding, as FEMA previously failed to reimburse Reclamation District 800 for an approved levee repair in 2010, contributing significantly to the district's $2 million debt before the 2023 storms.
This time, Ervin is pursuing approximately $3 million in FEMA reimbursements for levee repair work conducted between December 30 and February 24. Given Reclamation District 800's emergency declaration, it stands to potentially receive 100% reimbursement. Ervin meticulously compiled and submitted about 400 documents, recognizing the importance of streamlining the process to increase the likelihood of payment, as advised by the FEMA program manager.
In addition, Ervin has submitted paperwork for approximately $1.5 million in post-storm repairs between Feb. 27 and July 17, eligible for a 75% reimbursement rate.
Furthermore, Ervin has initiated the approval process for permanent repairs on three levees situated between Rancho Murieta and Dillard Road, comprising one on the right bank and two on the left. These repairs, estimated at $700,000, will undergo a comprehensive permitting process, which means the repairs take years.
Niello grant
Last summer, Reclamation District 800 received promising news with the allocation of a $500,000 grant by Senator Niello in the 2023/24 state budget, designated for the financing of Reclamation District 800's long-range planning efforts. Ervin halted work on the application to transfer the money from the state Department of Water Resources upon discovering that the funds had been frozen, due to the state's budget deficit. However, subsequent developments have seen the grant reinstated.
Ervin said he implemented a dedicated tracking system to monitor the time devoted to planning activities. That includes recent engagements such as a levee inspection conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and participation in a working group convened by Sacramento County Supervisor Pat Hume to evaluate the Cosumnes River watershed.
Smith, the district's contract attorney, is also documenting her time spent on planning initiatives for potential reimbursement from the grant. She said the trustees also could be reimbursed for their involvement in planning activities.
In other business:
Trustee Leland Schneider informed the board that he had tasked Trevor Dosh, the district's new maintenance supervisor, with obtaining quotes from an arborist to remove a “giant, humungous “oak tree that had fallen onto the Lee School House Road levee. Although the tree proved too large for Dosh to handle alone, he managed to trim it sufficiently to make the levee road accessible.
Schneider also provided an update from Dosh, who was still overseeing the tree removal. Dosh had conducted extensive patrols, averaging 10 to 12 hours daily during periods of high-water levels, and had identified rodent holes posing potential threats. Additionally, Dosh successfully restored all equipment to working order and procured straw and ryegrass for erosion control at emergency repair sites. "He's ensured the levees are navigable and clean, and he's even marked the old concrete anchors from the former hops farms to facilitate contractor mowing," Schneider said.
The board deliberated but deferred a vote on allocating approximately $30,000 to replace the district's pickup truck with a used vehicle. Subsequent to service, Dosh discovered the need for an $8,000 transmission repair.
District treasurer Perla Tzintzun-Garibay informed the board that Sacramento County had utilized funds from the district's general account with the county to settle a $350,000 payment to the Bank of Stockton, accompanied by $38,062 in interest. Tzintzun-Garibay clarified that technically, the county acts as the district's treasurer, ensuring that funds are available and addressing any outstanding debt, although this process had not been consistently followed in the past.
Tzintzun-Garibay recommended establishing a disability payments account with the state, given the district's employment of a full-time staff member and occasional part-time hires. The board unanimously approved the creation of the account.
The board's monthly meeting is scheduled for  9 a.m. Thursday, April 18 at Wilton Community Center, 9717 Colony Road.