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Levee Repairs Estimated to Last 45 Days

Work crews will fill a 400-foot-long breach and pump out water from flooded farmland.

June 05, 2004|From Associated Press

HOLT, Calif. — It will take at least 45 days for work crews to repair a broken levee and pump out water that is flooding miles of low-lying farmland and upsetting California's delicate water balance, authorities said Friday.

Before that work can begin, floodwaters must fill a roughly six-mile-square island of cropland west of Stockton, where farmers had planted asparagus, corn and other crops on 11,000 acres walled off a century ago from the marshy Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

Many islands in the labyrinthine delta are depressions that sit below the level of the surrounding rivers, with a lattice of levees keeping them dry. But floodwater from the Middle River was pouring in so quickly that the island was expected to fill by Friday evening, half a day earlier than expected.

Once the water level rises about 8 feet to the height of the river -- perhaps Saturday -- workers plan to harden the edges of the breach with 2-ton rocks, then begin plugging a gap more than 400 feet long. Engineers weren't sure how long repairs would take. The floodwater will then be pumped out, a process that took six weeks the last time the area flooded, 24 years ago.

About 70 people were evacuated Thursday from about 30 homes on the island.

"Right now, it's not going to be a short-term evacuation," said Sgt. Chris Stevens of the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Department. "For 45 days, there's going to be mud and water."

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