Sacramento County Water Officials are preparing residents in the county's delta area for a building ban brought on by the decertification of levees by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
That's because there are so many variables that assessing the safety of the levees surrounding Hood, Courtland and Walnut Grove would be a guessing game. Construction permits will be hard to come by.
"There will be no permits issued for room additions, new homes, new commercial or industrial properties, even a grain storage bin," said George Booth, a civil engineer for Sacramento Counties Water Resources Agency.
While a garage or a barn might be possible, a warehouse or a shop is likely to be built. It's similar to the building ban in Sacramento's Natomas neighborhood where any federally backed loan will not be approved.
The exception is if you build at flood level anywhere from 10 to 20 feet above the ground. In Natomas that's proved so expensive and so impractical that no one has done it.
And while the Natomas ban will be lifted once levee repairs are complete, Sacramento County's delta area won't be getting such relief. Rural reclamation districts can't afford to make major levee repairs and can't afford the detailed engineering analysis that can prove existing levees are safe.
Other variables like levee vegetation and global warming are impossible to quantify, making FEMA unable to assess the chances of flooding.
Redrawing area flood maps will mean mortgage lenders will require flood insurance which the county is recommending now to get cheaper rates.
Courtland homeowner Donna Reed was overseeing the remodel of her 1860's-era home that is a few feet from the Sacramento River Levee. She got her permits early and says she's lucky.
"It's too bad for the people who can't afford to do it or don't get going quick enough or don't have the knowledge that this is going to happen," said Reed.
The county is urging residents to get their construction permits before Augusts. It will hold informational hearings in the affected areas in mid-April and mid-May to make sure no residents are surprised by the Aug. 16 deadline.