STOCKTON, CA - In a graphic example of how a small mistake can have dramatic consequences, a Stockton couple has been ordered to move or remove a built-in backyard swimming pool.
Peter and Sharon Giudice are among eight families living along Bear Creek who received a notice from the Central Valley Flood Protection Board (CVFPB) March 24 ordering them to remove fences, retaining walls and landscaping from the levee behind their homes. In the case of the Giudices, the order includes the inground swimming pool with a spa and waterfall they built, with a city permit, 15 years ago.
"We have an execution date," Sharon Giudice said. "We have 60 days to remove everything or they'll come in and bulldoze it and send us the bill."
When the Twin Creeks Estates subdivision map was drafted in 1990, it failed to show a 10-foot levee protection easement along the back property lines on Curlew Street, which runs parallel to Bear Creek. Sharon Giudice said the eight families who bought waterfront lots on Curlew Street believed there was no restriction on what they could do in their backyards.
Homeowners planted trees, erected fences, built concrete walls and steps on the levee to allow easy access to boat docks on the creek. CVFPB executive officer Jay Punia, who signed the enforcement notices, told News10 that flood control officials were more relaxed with levee encroachments before Hurricane Katrina caused disastrous flooding in New Orleans in 2005.
"Since Katrina, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is looking more closely at whether we're meeting federal standards," Punia said. He said the Corps of Engineers has determined the homeowners' activites threaten the integrity of the levee.
The dispute with the eight waterfront homeowners could potentially impact all 380 homes in the subdivision. If the Bear Creek levee doesn't meet federal flood protection standards, the entire community could face mandatory flood insurance requirements.
Peter Giudice said the threat has led to some tension between the waterfront homeowners and their neighbors. "The homeowners are finding themselves thrown into the flood plain because of us. It's not fair to the homeowners and it's not fair to us that we're placed in this position," he said.
The Giudices plan to file suit to recover damages from the various individuals and organizations whose oversight led to the encroachment. But their main goal, they said, was to try to save their swimming pool.
by George Warren, GWarren@news10.net