[Location: Sacramento, CA]
[Video: man gathers fishing equipment in home and heads out]
PATRICK LESTER LIVES IN THE NATOMAS BASIN...JUST STEPS FROM THE SACRAMENTO RIVER.
("There are benefits. I am a fisherman at heart so I'm right on that water as much as I can be.")
BUT THE ONLY THING KEEPING THAT WATER FROM REACHING HIS HOME IF THERE'S FLOODING...IS AN OLD LEVEE ROAD...WHICH RESIDENTS WERE TOLD WAS SAFE WHEN THEY FIRST BUILT HERE...BUT AFTER HURRICANE KATRINA...WAS TESTED AND DETERMINED TO BE AT RISK OF FAILING.
BUILT IN THE EARLY 1900'S TO PROTECT FARMLAND, THE AGING LEVEE SYSTEM SURROUNDS MORE THAN ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND RESIDENTS...AS WELL AS THE CITY'S AIRPORT AND TWO MAJOR HIGHWAYS.
("I've heard that in an estimated ten years that levee could crumble in some way. Especially from what I've seen from living here, how high that water can get, that is a serious potential issue.")
...AN ISSUE THE CITY HAS BEEN TRYING TO FIX FOR YEARS.
(construction truck drive by)
[SOT/Angelique Ashby/Sacramento Vice Mayor] ("Total exposure for a levee breach in the Natomas basin is beyond catastrophic. It would be worse than the Katrina event in New Orleans.")
SACRAMENTO HAS RAISED HALF OF THE BILLION DOLLARS NEEDED TO REPAIR THE 42-MILE LEVEE...BUT THEY NEED THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TO PITCH IN THE REST TO COMPLETE THE JOB...A DIFFICULT REQUEST AS CONGRESS CRACKS DOWN ON EARMARKS.
[SOT/Angelique Ashby/Sacramento Vice Mayor] ("If it were solely up to the representation of the State of California, we wouldn't be having this conversation. But because there's a larger national issue, we have to work through the definition of the earmark to make sure we complete projects like this, that are critical for public safety. One hundred thousand people are relying on this levee.")
BUT THE SITUATION IN SACRAMENTO IS JUST ONE OF SEVERAL LEVEE SYSTEMS ACROSS THE COUNTRY WHICH ARE AT RISK OF FAILING.
AN EXAMINATION BY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FOUND ONE IN FOUR OF THE NATION'S LEVEE SYSTEMS ARE DEEMED TO BE IN UNACCEPTABLE CONDITION.
DATA SHOWS THE NATION'S PROBLEM LEVEES STRETCH OVER 15 HUNDRED MILES, PROTECTING AN AREA BIGGER THAN THE STATE OF MARYLAND.
[fullscreen graphic w/stats]
CALIFORNIA HAD THE MOST NUMBER OF MILES OF UNACCEPTABLE LEVEES AT NEARLY 500, FOLLOWED BY FLORIDA AND ARKANSAS.
[Location: New Orleans, LA]
[Video: Modern levee surrounding New Orleans]
ONE PROBLEM AREA THAT HAS BEEN ADDRESSED IS NEW ORLEANS.
[SOT/Ken Holder/Army Corps of Engineers] ("What you don't have anymore is us depending on one feature to be able to fight any sort of storm. What you have now is numerous features: pump stations, walls, interior drainage. What you have is so much more than what we had before.")
NEW ORLEANS RESIDENTS LIKE ROBERT GREEN...WHO LOST NEARLY EVERYTHING IN KATRINA...SAY THEY FEEL SAFER NOW...ESPECIALLY AFTER THE LEVEE SYSTEM HELD UP DURING HURRICANE ISAAC IN AUGUST.
("I feel pretty good. The levee that has been rebuilt that was destroyed in Katrina has been built better.")
BUT LEVEES ELSEWHERE ARE NOT GETTING THE SAME ATTENTION...AND MANY LOCAL GOVERNMENTS SAY THEY JUST DON'T HAVE THE MONEY RIGHT NOW TO FIX THEM.
HAVEN DALEY, ASSOCIATED PRESS, SACRAMENTO.