Kings County Sheriff David Robinson told residents at a packed Corcoran town hall meeting this week that the project to raise the levee protecting the city from flood waters is 75% complete.
Additionally, residents were told very few of the 4,032 Kings County land parcels — 408,000 acres — that have the potential for flooding this summer as a result of record snowmelt are under water at this time.
“Current parcels underwater are 720,” said Kings County Assessor/Clerk/ Recorder Kristine Lee. “That’s $204.8 million worth of property. We have received 270 requests for relief, and out of those, 204 are actually in the flood zone under the Tulare Lake Basin.”
Most of the affected land would be farmland, Lee said, not residential homes. Including residential parcels, there are approximately 50,000 parcels in Kings County overall.
Hosted by Kings County Supervisor Richard Valle at Corcoran’s Technology Learning Center, the town hall featured presentations and a question and answer session with Corcoran, Kings County and Department of Water Resources (DWR) officials on dealing with “the big melt.”
Officials predicted snowmelt would be at its highest in late May or early June, depending on the weather.
“All of the mid to low snowpack has melted,” said Supervising Engineer and Project Manager with DWR’s South Central Region Office Alexis Phillips-Dowell. “Now we’re waiting for that larger snowpack in the upper elevations to melt."
Dowell said the DWR has resources in place to prepare for flooding, including 4 million sandbags and two miles of flood barriers.
Recent water department forecasts show that even assuming the most snowmelt possible, Corcoran’s new levee is tall enough to handle the water, Dowell said.
“Right now, we’re predicting a maximum water surface elevation of about 184 feet above mean sea level,” Dowell said.
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced earlier this month that the state would put $17 million towards raising the levee from 188 feet to 192 feet above sea level. The levee, which has already been raised twice in eight years, sinks continually due to subsidence, a phenomena where the ground around Corcoran slowly sinks because of groundwater pumping.
Lee told the gathering that the dollar value of property potentially affected by flooding is around $1.3 billion.
The Assessor’s office is working to set the value of properties that are under water at zero to relieve affected owners from property tax, Lee said, noting that owners with flooded property have had to file an application or a form with the assessor’s office in order to have their land revalued at zero.
“By law, right now, I cannot reduce the value on the parcel under water unless I have an application or a disaster relief form filed,” Lee said. “We are working on an ordinance to change that, but at this point it’s in with our county attorneys. They’re reviewing it, and it’ll be brought before the Board of Supervisors to see if we can do a mass appraisal.”
Lee warned that resetting property values will have an affect on the county's pocketbook down the road, but described the decision as the “right thing to do.”
Kings County officials encouraged residents who have experienced flood damage to fill out an online form on the government’s website, and encouraged residents to sign up for the county’s alert system by visiting the county’s website or by texting their zipcode to 888777.