As floods endanger the San Joaquin Valley, Newsom cuts funding for floodplains


by Alastair Bland

Walker Slough and the East San Joaquin River Levee in Stockton on March 25, 2023. These low-income neighborhoods could flood as water backs up from the San Joaquin River. Photo by Martin do Nascimento, CalMatters

The governor eliminated $40 million for restoring floodplains, halting projects that help protect vulnerable, disadvantaged communities like Stockton. San Joaquin Valley legislators are pushing back.

Last fall, when the state Legislature authorized $40 million for floodplain restoration, Julie Rentner knew just what she would do with it. Her group, River Partners, would spend more than a quarter of the funds buying a 500-acre dairy farm abutting the San Joaquin River in Stanislaus County. 

Then millions more would be spent on removing debris, sheds, manure heaps and levees. They would plant native vegetation, and eventually restore the parcel to its natural state as a woodland and floodplain. 

When floodplains like these are allowed to fill with water, they can reduce flooding impacts elsewhere along the river, so the project could protect communities downstream, including Stockton, which is highly vulnerable to flooding. 

Rentner said crews of community members were ready to begin the work.

But in January, the money disappeared.

In a move that upset and baffled local leaders, conservationists and floodplain advocates, Gov. Gavin Newsom, in his 2023-24 budget proposal, eliminated all $40 million that had been allocated for San Joaquin Valley floodplain restoration this year.

Keep reading the full article on CalMatters.