This is a Great Question, “Why aren’t communities throughout the entire Bay Area being mandated to do this?”
Guest perspective: Foster City levee issue May 22, 2017, 05:00 AM By Linda Koelling
The city of Foster City is confronted with upgrading sections of the levee to bring the current structure into Federal Emergency Management Agency compliance. The claim by FEMA is that a change in the sea wall or levee height is necessary to protect the city from flooding from future speculated storm surges. The correction is mandatory or the homeowners of Foster City will risk classification as being in a designated FEMA flood zone and required to pay flood insurance.
A recent guest perspective in the Daily Journal by T. Jack Foster questions the timing of this requirement. He states that Foster City’s lagoon system was designed to take care of excess water due to storm surges if they were ever to occur. Every winter the Public Works Department reduces the level of the lagoons to contain any excess rain or storm surge so the lagoon pumping system can move any excess water back into the Bay. The lagoon system was designed and well thought out to take care of any excess water incursion into the city both now and into the future.
Our levees are accredited for the 100-year flood level requirement. According to Mr. Foster’s guest perspective, the speculated rate of increase of Bay waters is calculated to be 1 inch per decade. Therefore the need to deal with concerns of water surge or sea level rise is years away if ever. So what are the real facts behind the need to comply with the very high cost to each of the citizens of Foster City for raising the levee now? What other Bayfront communities are being faced with this mandate to spend potentially $75 million or more.
Our city has withstood earthquakes when others thought we would sink into the Bay; we withstood recent high rain conditions without flooding when other nearby cities were not so lucky. My point is that Foster City is very well designed and maintained, and the lagoon systems and pumping capacities are not being taken into account by FEMA in calculating their worst-case, 100-year scenarios.
If FEMA were not enough to deal with, the Bay Conservation Development Commission, an agency created to protect the Bay, decided to get into the act. In addition to the calculation of storm surge possibilities by FEMA, BCDC has calculated that a sea rise for 2050 and 2100 will require that the city begin building a sea wall around our city now.
Interested citizens should look at the artist renderings of the solutions pending for Foster City. I think you will be appalled at the potential for this new enclosure of our city from the Bay waters. Why aren’t communities throughout the entire Bay Area being mandated to do this? Wouldn’t it make sense that the sea rise they have calculated also involve neighboring waterfront communities?
I believe there are important questions that need to be answered before we are bullied by FEMA or BCDC to meet a requirement that has little to no basis in currently collected data to support any immediate need to spend an enormous amount of money.
In 2011, as mayor, I received a letter indicating that regional governing bodies like BCDC were considering plans for the Bay Area that would significantly curtail city and county control over land use decisions in communities like ours. I saw at that time the drawings of a projected “great wall” around the entire Bay Area to protect against the anticipated sea level rise of epic proportions in a time far into the future.
It’s time the people recognize that these regional governing bodies composed of special districts, joint powers authorities, etc., lack the checks and balances of our government system and few people know who these non-elected board members are who make these broad stroked decisions. Little by little these regional boards and agencies have continued to amass power to usurp local control.
The residents of Foster City are faced with a hefty cost if we are strong-armed into moving forward with this project demanded by FEMA and now BCDC. City officials should ask more questions and provide the citizens of Foster City more answers. In particular, who funds this unfunded mandate? Should it be entirely on the backs of the residents? Should funding come from grants from the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority whom voters gave additional property tax money to for the next 25 years to save the Bay?
The residents of Foster City need to know the answers to these questions before writing the check for something that none of us will be able to prove whether we needed to do this now or not.
Linda Koelling is the former mayor of Foster City.
Here is the Letter by T. Jack Foster.
|OP-ED: Is Foster City really in danger of floods?
|May 02, 2017, 05:00 AM By T. Jack Foster
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is requiring Foster City to spend $75 million to raise their levees so that the city won’t be declared a flood zone. Such a designation would make it necessary for homes in Foster City with mortgages insured by a federal agency to acquire flood insurance. I’ve seen nothing that tells me how many such homes there are, but I would venture that there are very few. I’ve also seen nothing regarding the cost of the insurance. Since Foster City has been well-protected from floods by a system that has proved itself for over 50 years, I can’t imagine that such insurance is very expensive. So raising the levees would only save a few people from paying that insurance, at the cost of $75 million from homeowners.
Flooding has been the single biggest issue impacting the infrastructure of the city since the beginning. Not because of flooding from the Bay, since the levees have been in place since 1900. Rather, the problem was that the levees helped to trap the rainwater that fell on the land. The county’s engineer was concerned enough that he suggested the fill of the land should be raised high enough that rainwater would drain directly into the Bay. Aside from the economics of this idea, it was physically impossible. The soft underlying soil would not be able to support the weight of the fill.
The solution that was finally implemented was the lagoon system, which collects the rainwater, which then pumps out to the Bay when needed during rainy seasons. The holding basin of the system can hold over an inch of rain, though the pumps work as the rain falls.
This is the system which exists in FEMA’s so-called “flood zone.” FEMA’s fear comes from a potential rise in water levels of the Bay. At its current rate of increase, about 1 inch per decade, the need to deal with this matter is years away. When we do need to deal with it, it will be at high tide only, and only in small quantities of water. This water will run into the storm drain system and into the lagoon, where the pumping system will take care of excess water. Certainly, it is possible that this system can be overwhelmed by too much water. Good notice of this will be provided as the issue evolves, and we can raise the levees at that time, with a better view of the extent of the work needed.
T. Jack Foster Jr., along with his father and brothers, developed Foster City