SACRAMENTO -- Natomas was just minutes from mayhem last fall. Now, levee district leaders are trying to keep it from happening again.
Drive along Garden Highway in Natomas and you'll see one of the eight pumping station that protects 140,000 people and their properties
"Plant 1a was built in 1920 and, internally, the pumps are still the same pumps," said Kevin King.
General manager Kevin King showed us the debris racks that keep channels clear so pumps don't fail.
"One chain failure will cause the entire rack to shut down - and we had six chain failures at the same time on three different racks at 2 a.m. last October when we saw record rainfall," said King. "We were about two inches away from putting water on I-80 at West El Camino as it goes through our district due to pump failures, mechanical failures, and electrical failure of our infrastructure."
He says nobody knew what happened thanks to some quick thinking, but next time we might not be so lucky -- and thousands of homes could flood.
It's a long running issue when it comes to flood protection.
"There is $140 billion statewide in funding flood infrastructure needs currently funded at less than $2 billion a year," King said.
That's why, by the end of the year, the levee district will be asking property owners in Natomas to help fund improvements. King says Natomas needs $34 million over the next decade to address critical needs and make repairs.
"And then after that, we need to spend $3.5 million a year to replace items before they wear out," said King.
We don't want a repeat of history, King says. Take a look at records with the Sacramento Historical Soceity and you see what happened to Sacramento when we saw record-breaking rainfall in 1861.
"What happened was the city filled up with water [and] there has never been a storm like that since. The closest we came was 1997-98, and we're way overdue for that," said Marcia Eymann.
And climate change will only make it worse.
King says the levee district is also seeking state and federal funds. This internal work is in addition to the improvements on 42 miles of exterior levee expected to be done by 2025.
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