Having fallen more than a year behind schedule, the Foster City levee improvement project is finally moving forward after securing the final remaining permit last week.
That permit is from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, one of the four main regulatory agencies whose approval was needed. The others include the State Lands Commission, Regional Water Quality Control Board and the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, which issued its permit in November after months of unforeseen delays, according to a press release.
“The process to obtain the permits from the permitting agencies was arduous and began approximately one year ago,” City Manager Jeff Moneda said in the release. “We are pleased that we have finally received the final permit so that the design of the project can be completed and the project can move forward.”
Design drawings were already 95% complete in November and once that phase wraps up then the city can move forward with the request for proposals process. The award of the contract is expected to come by June or July of 2020 with construction beginning in July or August and extending to roughly May of 2023.
In June of 2018, more than 80% of Foster City voters approved a $90 million general obligation bond for the project, which was needed to meet updated federal requirements, protect essential city services during storms and protect the levee itself from earthquake damage, according to the release. The first of the general obligation bond sales are scheduled to occur in May or June of 2020.
The project became necessary after the Federal Emergency Management Agency placed the Bayfront city into the flood zone because its existing levee system would no longer protect the community from a 100-year flood and needed to be raised.
The existing levee ranges from 12 feet to 13 feet and FEMA is requiring it to be raised to 16 feet in certain areas. After FEMA released the new flood map, the Bay Conservation and Development Commission required the city to raise the levee 2 feet taller than what FEMA originally mandated.
In addition to raising the levee, the project includes redevelopment and widening of the levee Bay Trail and construction of two bridges to increase tidal circulation to enhance the O’Neill Slough in the southern segment of the project site.
Following the passage of the bond, all property owners — residential, office and commercial — saw their tax rates increase about $41 per $100,000 of assessed property value, with the average property owner paying about $270 more a year in taxes. If the measure didn’t pass, then property owners with federally backed mortgages would be required to purchase thousands of dollars of flood insurance every year.
At recent city meetings, officials have remained confident the project will remain within budget, but some councilmembers remain unconvinced, noting it’s impossible to say for sure until the request for proposals come back.
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