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Levee project is a critical infrastructure improvement
June 19, 2017, 05:00 AM by Kevin M. Miller

As Foster City manager, I understand that there is a great deal of concern regarding the Levee Protection Planning and Improvements Project. There have been questions and comments about the project online, at meetings and in conversations with City Council, city staff and myself. It is invaluable that citizens are involved with the process of local government. So let me address what I believe is the most important Public Works infrastructure project since the construction of Foster City.

The project began in 2014 with news that the Federal Emergency Management Agency determined that the current levee system did not meet accreditation standards, meaning that Foster City would be designated as a flood zone if changes were not made.

In 2015, the city brought together a team of staff and consultants, who worked with FEMA on “seclusion mapping” designation (which would delay the flood-zone designation) if progress was made to improve the levee. On April 28, 2015, the City Council accepted “seclusion mapping” and on behalf of the City Council, former mayor Art Kiesel informed FEMA via letter that improvements would be made to the levee system to regain accreditation.

On Aug. 28, 2015, the city held a kick-off meeting inviting our regional elected officials and all environmental agencies involved to discuss the proposed levee improvement project, which included U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, and county Supervisor Dave Pine; all of whom indicated the importance of collaboration, communication and their interest and support in the city delivering a successful project.

For the past two years, the project team has worked diligently with consultants, over 20 environmental agencies, residents, businesses, and engineers to decide the best course of action for the community.

This project is the largest and most complex since the initial development of the city and is an integral part of the city’s infrastructure, safety and enjoyment for the community. The priority has been to maintain residents’ safety and property in a way that would be fiscally and environmentally responsible. On May 8, 2017, the City Council directed staff to proceed with the “2050 Sea Level Rise Plus Adaptability” scenario, to further develop and analyze a future offshore adaptation strategy, and proceed with a general obligation bond financing alternative over 30 years. This option will not only protect your property and provide a cost-effective approach to address sea level rise concerns, but prevent many property owners from having to purchase costly flood insurance. These improvements would also address potential hazards to the city’s infrastructure; such as the Corporation Yard, which houses the city’s water storage tanks and pumping station, providing for quality and reliable water and wastewater service, in addition to the lagoon pumping system.

Here are a few key facts that I ask you to keep in mind:

• If the appropriate steps are not made, Foster City may be declared as a high-risk Special Flood Hazard Area, meaning:

• All properties with federally backed loans or other types of loans would be required to indefinitely obtain flood insurance at a cost of over $1,000 and up annually;

• All property owners would be required to disclose flood zone designation when selling their property; and

• Property values may be impacted.

• Permitting is required from FEMA, San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Regional Water Quality Control Board;

• Estimated construction and project management costs are initially $90 million;

• A general obligation bond is the most cost-effective form of financing for this project out of the alternatives that were studied and requires two-thirds votes to pass, projected to be on the June 2018 ballot;

• No local, state or federal funding is currently available. The city continues to seek any grant opportunities and funding sources; and

• Lowering the lagoon levels in significant amounts is not acceptable to FEMA to retain accreditation.

Please visit the city website at for more detailed information or contact me directly at (650) 286-3220 or

I want to emphasize and assure residents that the city and its staff will do all that we can to ensure the health and safety of the community. It is paramount that you have confidence and trust in us by working together.

After dedicating 32 years to Foster City, I care about you and this community. I have full confidence that the improvements to the levee will serve everyone, and I applaud the community for their interest in the city of Foster City, and encourage you all to stay engaged.

Kevin Miller is the city manager of Foster City.



Tags: project, foster, would, property, levee, flood,

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