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Repair Work On Levees Damaged By Homeless Camps Continues

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Sacramento is near the top of the list when it comes to cities at risk of catastrophic flooding.

Last May, CBS13 reported on a new threat, homeless people carving out camps in the levees that surround the region. Now, we're getting answers on the work being done to upgrade them.

Construction crews are scrambling to finish up levee work in Sacramento before the wet weather sets in.

"It's very important, I mean, all we need to do is have one bad winter," Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento) said.

Congresswoman Matsui toured the project Monday, which involves strengthening the levee with a 50-foot deep waterproof wall.

"They're cutting a trench in the actual roadway and putting in what we call a slurry mix to prevent seepage water from undermining the levee system," Col. James Handura, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said.

Swipe through photos of the homeless camps along the levee. 

(credit: RD1000)
(credit: RD1000)
(credit: RD1000)

The 42 miles of levees around Natomas hold back water from creeks and rivers and are susceptible to erosion from high runoff and rodents. Now there's a growing threat from homeless encampments.

READ MORE: Getting Answers: What Leaders Are Doing To Protect The Levees From Damage From Homeless

Last spring, CBS13 first reported on homeless people caught carving out trenches in the levee to flatten the ground for their camps. The hundreds of tents and tarps prevent levee patrols from spotting damage.

"The difficulty is you don't have time to ask people to move when the water reaches monitor stage," Darren Suen, Central Valley Flood Protection Board, said.

After our story aired, state lawmakers drafted a bill which would have given flood control districts the authority to have encampments removed, but it never made it to the governor's desk.

"It was stalled in one of the appropriations committees," Suen said.

So far, there's no current plan in Washington to help prevent the problem.

READ: Brazen Thieves Use Bolt Cutters To Vandalize Levee Gate, Possibly Putting Community At Risk

"We're dealing with some of the homeless issues at the federal level, but mostly through HUD and things like that. It's not necessarily through what we're trying to do with flood protection," Matsui said.

City leaders say there must be a solution soon, before disaster strikes.

"You can't put an entire city at risk to protect the right of a homeless person to dig into a federally-protected structure," Sacramento City Councilman Jeff Harris said.

Crews will end levee work on Oct. 31 and resume repairs in the spring when water levels recede. The overall project is expected to be completed in 2024.

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