No Legitimate Reason

State flood board overreaches with fences

By Patrick Kennedy
October 2023

In 2022, the Sacramento Area Council of Governments board of directors, which I currently chair, adopted a regional trails plan that lays the groundwork for a 1,000-mile-long regional trail network linking the Sierra Nevada, Sacramento and Delta.

The plan aims to address greenhouse gas emissions and provide transportation and recreational opportunities for residents. The Sacramento River levee trail is an integral part.

The vision for a riverfront trail in Pocket is nothing new. It has been in city plans for nearly 50 years. Fast forward to 1997 when the city adopted the Sacramento River Parkway Plan Update that identified a preferred trail alternative, locating the trail on top of the Sacramento River levee.

In 2012, the city created an implementation plan. The Area Council of Governments provided funds to complete preliminary engineering and environmental clearances, and prepare the final design.

At build out, the parkway will run between Garcia Bend and Zacharias parks. The project is designed for construction in two segments, depending on funding. The first stage runs from Garcia Bend to Arabella Way. The second stage is from Arabella Way to Zacharias.

The project includes:
• Construction of a paved, ADA-compliant levee top trail between Garcia Bend and Zacharias.
• ADA-compliant access ramps at locations along the trail.
• Improved connections between the Pocket Canal Parkway and Sacramento River Parkway.
• Development and implementation of the Sacramento River Parkway Project neighborhood safety plan.

Enter the Central Valley Flood Protection Board. The flood board recently permitted cross-levee fences that will curtail the efforts to develop a levee top trail, forbidding public access.

At question is the appropriateness of these permits. The flood board website says:
“CVFPB is the State regulatory agency responsible for ensuring that appropriate standards are met for the construction, maintenance, and protection of the flood control system that protects life, property, and wildlife habitat in California’s vast and diverse Central Valley from the devastating effects of flooding. CVFPB issues encroachment permits and works with other agencies to improve the flood protection structures, enforces removal of problematic encroachments, and keeps watch over the Central Valley’s continually improving flood management system.”

The flood board’s role is important, but limited to flood protection. Its role is not to disallow public access to our levees, unless there is a legitimate, flood-related reason.

In this case, there is no legitimate reason. The recent allowance of cross-levee fencing is clearly an overreach by the state flood board.

True, the river levee top through Pocket has a mix of public and private ownerships. The levee top south of Aquapher Way (just north of the Pocket Canal Sump Station) to the Freeport Regional Water Authority Intake is public property. The paved trail begins at Garcia Bend and runs downstream to the south.

North of Aquapher Way is a mix of public and private ownerships along the levee top. The privately owned segments of the levee top typically provide easements for flood control and maintenance activities, but admittedly do not include easements for public access.

The city has expressed its intention to work with potentially affected property owners to obtain any necessary rights to public access for the proposed trail, after completion of the environmental reviews and project approvals, and prior to trail construction. This is the appropriate process.

Local government should take the lead on non-flood related decisions regarding the levee, not a governor-appointed body with little public accountability. The Central Valley Flood Protection Board should halt further issuance of permits and allow locals to control this process moving forward.

See R.E. Graswich’s column for background on the flood board’s new fence permits.

Patrick Kennedy represents District 2 on the County Board of Supervisors, which includes Pocket, Little Pocket, Land Park, Curtis Park, Meadowview and South Sacramento. He can be reached at or (916) 874-5481.

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