Calif. State Sen., Assemblyman Co-Author Disaster Relief Bill for Levee Break

June 28, 2004

California State Sen. Charles Poochigian (R-Fresno) and Assemblyman Guy Houston (R-Livermore) have introduced legislation to provide aid for those impacted by the Middle River Levee break in San Joaquin County earlier this month.

“The state has a responsibility to assist local governments, private landowners, and all Californians impacted by this disaster,” said Senator Poochigian. “It will take time for these people affected by the Middle River Levee break to get their lives and their finances in order, but this aid will help.”

On June 3, 2004, the Middle River Levee in the San Joaquin Delta broke, destroying property, flooding 12,000 acres of prime farmland, and displacing hundreds of people. Estimates place the cost of the disaster at approximately $93 million.

AB 2165 includes three major provisions to help those directly and indirectly impacted by the levee disaster.

AB 2165 will allow the state government to cover 100 percent of the local costs of the disaster, potentially saving local governments millions of dollars. Under current law, the disaster declaration by Governor Schwarzenegger limits state government to covering only 75 percent of these costs.

The bill also allows those who lost property in the flood to carry over those losses on their taxes for the next 15 years. This will reportedly help soften the blow of the financial loss for local farmers, farmworkers, and small businesses that lost equipment, crops, and buildings in the flood.

Third, the bill exempts those whose water deliveries were decreased as a result of the levee break from water rights fees paid to the state. In an effort to stem the danger of salt water intrusion, state and federal officials turned off water pumps in the Delta for a number of days after the break. As a matter of fairness, AB 2165 makes sure water users do not pay fees for water that was not delivered as a result of the levee break.

Provisions of this legislation that permit cost sharing and property loss tax carryover are reportedly consistent with previous actions taken by the state in response to disasters. Most recently, SB 438 allows these same benefits for the victims of last year’s Paso Robles earthquake and Southern California fires and is currently awaiting action by Governor Schwarzenegger.

AB 2165 has been referred to both the Senate Revenue and Taxation and Agriculture and Water Resources Committees for hearings this week.

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