Smith Canal petition in the works

This rendering shows what the gate near the mouth of Smith Canal might look like, as seen from Atherton Cove

Levee engineer Dominick Gulli, who is suing to block the proposed Smith Canal flood-control gate, told officials last week that he has also started a petition.

“It brings up many of the issues of the way you’re collecting this assessment” to pay for the gate, Gulli told the San Joaquin Area Flood Control Agency’s Board of Directors. “I don’t think that, once the people hear these facts, there will be many of them who want to pay them.”

Gulli declined today to send me a copy of the pending petition.

“Get it somewhere else,” he wrote. “You’ll blame me for people for having flood insurance to stop the gate.”

The gate is supposed to remove a FEMA-imposed flood insurance mandate for thousands of central Stockton homeowners. When deployed, the gate would prevent Delta floodwaters from backing up into the canal.

It’s not that there are any known problems with the Smith Canal levees. But because they are covered with homes, officials cannot inspect them adequately. Hence, the flood insurance restriction for much of the surrounding area.

Gulli applied for a contract to design the gate, but was rejected. He is now suing to block the project altogether.

Atherton Cove homeowners have also sued, fearing that the gate will trap water hyacinth in the scenic cove behind their homes, among other issues.

SJAFCA officials recently disclosed that the agency’s legal costs to fight the two lawsuits combined is now more than $800,000. That means that a portion of the money that residents agreed to pay for the gate is now paying for lawyers instead.

If SJAFCA loses either lawsuit, construction could be delayed, and residents would be required to pay flood insurance for a longer period of time.

“I’m the last thing that’s delaying this project,” Gulli told the SJAFCA board last week. “There are many things way bigger than me that is delaying this project.”

Gulli, who represented himself in the early stages of his lawsuit, also said that he has hired his daughter, a “rookie attorney,” to handle his case. A new legal petition is expected to be submitted in a couple of weeks, he said.

“I’m not dead yet,” Gulli said.

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    Alex Breitler

    A native of Benicia, he lives in Stockton with his wife, Ann, who forces him to go backpacking in the Sierra Nevada or Trinity Alps at every opportunity. He has been writing mostly about natural resources since 2003, first in Redding and now in ... Read Full
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