GOP’s hostages

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We watched in stunned silence as Hurricane Sandy flooded huge swaths of the northeastern United States in November 2012, devastating the lives of millions of Americans. Could such extreme-weather events become the new normal? We believe the answer is yes.

This is most worrisome for us in Sacramento when we consider the population of Natomas. Low-slung and set half-inside a bowl surrounded by our local rivers, the area remains in grave danger of flooding, even without the eventuality of more extreme storms. For years, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has already submitted plans to Congress about exactly what must be done to protect Natomas, says the Sacramento region is the single-most at-risk urban area to river flooding in the nation.

The current problem? Flood control remains hostage to the Republican-led Congress and its blanket “no earmarks” policy. (Though earmarks can serve as a corrupt way for politicians to get projects for their districts, a stand against them should not withhold public-safety measures where they are desperately needed.)

Congresswoman Doris Matsui—Sacramento’s longtime stalwart on this issue—considers flood protection her No. 1 priority as the 113th Congress gets underway. In fact, on the first day of convening, Matsui reintroduced two pieces of legislation that would authorize much-needed levee improvements for Natomas. The good news: According to Matsui, the Flood Protection Public Safety Act of 2012 has workaround “public safety language” that should remove it from being considered an earmark.

Huzzahs to Congresswoman Matsui for taking up this task. Here’s hoping her project meets with something other than gridlock and partisan feuding in the new Congress.