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Governor Declares Second State of Emergency Because of Storms, Flooding in Seven Counties

April 11, 2006|Robert Salladay | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Monday declared his second state of emergency stemming from winter rainstorms that threaten to overburden California's system of levees, aqueducts, reservoirs and rivers.

The latest proclamation covers seven Northern and Central California counties -- Amador, Calaveras, Fresno, Merced, San Joaquin, San Mateo and Stanislaus -- which comprise some of the most productive farmland in the world.

Schwarzenegger's order is a legal device that helps free up state resources.

In February, the governor took similar action to speed repairs for the state's levee system statewide. He said "the already poor conditions of many levees creates conditions of imminent peril to those living near the levees, to the environment, businesses and the critical life support systems, such as drinking water."

On Monday, Schwarzenegger toured a state Department of Water Resources command center in Sacramento. He surveyed a wall-sized map showing California's 564-mile-long water-management system, which runs from Shasta Lake near Redding to Lake Perris in Southern California.

Les Harder, the agency's deputy director, told the governor and other officials "all of our reservoirs are full and we are not able to contain all the water." Harder also said "levee failures are quite possible" and that Firebaugh, a town in Fresno County, "is in danger of being flooded."

Merced and San Joaquin counties already have faced flooding, mudslides and evacuations because of rainstorms that began March 29.

Along the San Joaquin River near Vernalis, a Department of Water Resources contractor Monday dumped 4,500 tons of rock in a weakened levee. An area nearby broke in 1997, causing severe flooding.

Prison crews also were shoring up levees near Manteca.

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