Calif. to cover costs to raise Corcoran Levee as re-emerging Tulare Lake swells

Defending southern Kings County from intense flooding near the new Tulare Lake has become a key budget issue for Gov. Gavin Newsom.

With the looming melt on the horizon, the ever important Corcoran levee that is holding floodwaters at bay in Kings County will receive a substantial boost from the state. 

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Thursday that the state will pay $17 million to cover the costs to raise the levee on the edge of the reformed Tulare Lake. 


The big picture: The Corcoran Levee, which spans 14.5 miles and is managed by the Cross Creek Flood Control District, currently sits at 188 feet above sea level and will be raised to 192 feet. 

  • Kings County Acting Administrative Officer Kyria Martinez said the project is expected to be completed by the first week of June. 
  • Raising the Corcoran Levee will protect the cities of Corcoran and Stratford from the oncoming influx of water. The levee is also vitally important to protect the two nearby prisons that house around 8,000 inmates. 
  • Along with paying for the levee raise, Newsom announced his revised budget, which proposes an additional $290 million for flood response and future flood protection on top of the $202 million already proposed in January. 

By the numbers: Over 103,000 acres of agricultural land has been affected by the flood waters, totaling over $149 million in damages so far – a number that Kings County officials expect to grow as the runoff commences. 

  • Kings County Sheriff David Robinson said during a Thursday press conference at the levee that the lake is about 20 miles long and eight miles wide. 

What they’re saying: Kings County Supervisor Richard Valle thanked Newsom for stepping in with the support. 

  • “If the governor hadn’t stepped in, the people of Corcoran – like we did in 2017 – would’ve had to pay for this levee again,” Valle said. 
  • In 2017, Corcoran residents had their property taxes raised so that the Corcoran Levee could be raised. 
  • Robinson reminded the public that the reformed Tulare Lake is not a public lake given that it resides on private farmland, meaning the sheriff’s office will cite people for trespassing. He also warned against bringing boats or kayaks to the lake since the area is not safe with electrical lines and other debris. 
  • “This isn’t a two month event,” Robinson said. “This is an event that’s going to last for a year, year and a half, two years where this water is going to be covering farmland that feeds the world. And I hope people realize that. This is a big deal to us. It has a huge economic impact, and so the announcement by the governor and the governor’s office and the governor’s staff is tremendous for us, so we really appreciate that.”
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