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Despite state investment in Corcoran levee, concerns remain for incarcerated population

Read the transcript for this report below.

ELIZABETH ARAKELIAN, HOST: On Thursday, Governor Gavin Newsom pledged to help pay for raising the Corcoran levee. It protects the city and its two state prisons from the rising Tulare Lake. As KVPR’s Kerry Klein reports, that’s little consolation to some families of the incarcerated.

KERRY KLEIN: What if the snow melts too quickly, and the floodwaters still overtake the levee? That’s top of mind for Christine Herrera, whose husband is one of nearly 8,000 men incarcerated in Corcoran.

KLEIN: Prison representatives have said there is a plan for relocating inmates if necessary. But they say that plan is not public. That terrifies Herrera.

CHRISTINE HERRERA: My biggest concern is they're not going to get everybody out in time.

KLEIN: Many roads around the prison are closed, which could complicate evacuations of inmates and some 14,000 other Corcoran residents.

KLEIN: State officials say they’re trying to avoid a situation that would require evacuating the prisons. The levee is being raised four feet, which would bring it to around 13 feet above the current lake level. Flood control officials estimate the project could cost as much as $20 million. For KVPR News, I'm Kerry Klein.

Kerry Klein is an award-winning reporter whose coverage of public health, air pollution, drinking water access and wildfires in the San Joaquin Valley has been featured on NPR, KQED, Science Friday and Kaiser Health News. Her work has earned numerous regional Edward R. Murrow and Golden Mike Awards and has been recognized by the Association of Health Care Journalists and Society of Environmental Journalists. Her podcast Escape From Mammoth Pool was named a podcast “listeners couldn’t get enough of in 2021” by the radio aggregator NPR One.
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