Leave it to something like levee vegetation to unite California lawmakers.
On Tuesday, in the latest round of a long-running flood-control dispute, Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, and 34 other House members from California urged the Army Corps of Engineers to revise its policies governing vegetation on levees. The lawmakers, mostly Democrats but with a few Republicans like Rep. Dan Lungren, D-Gold River, joining in, warned the Corps against what they call the "extremely high costs of levee construction and mitigation" entailed by a strict no-vegetation rule.
The stakes are high, as California officials have identified more than 2,100 miles of levees in the Central Valley.
The Californian lawmakers said they agree that new levees should be "constructed and maintained in full compliance with Corps vegetation policies" but called for a "a regionally adaptable approach" that permits woody vegetation on existing levees.
The corps believes vegetation can undermine the stability of levees, although a study released last year asserted that vegetation at the base of levees can actually be beneficial.
Related story: Corps' policy on levee trees holds -- for now