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Congressman Doug LaMalfa

Representing the 1st District of California

J Levee may receive more funding

Feb 18, 2015
In The News

The 100-year-old J Levee, which marginally protects Hamilton City from flooding when the Sacramento River surges its banks, is may be getting a start on its much-delayed reconstruction.

In his 2016 proposed federal budget, President Barack Obama set aside $15 million in federal funding to fix the aged and dilapidated levee, which stands as sentry between the river and Hamilton City's residents, schools, homes, farms and businesses.

U.S. Rep. John Garamendi, D-Fairfield, who, along with U.S. Reg. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, worked as elected officials supporting the effort, said he is "proud" that the president's budget proposes funding for "crucial Northern California water infrastructure projects that his office has advocated."

LaMalfa said during an interview he will do all he can to secure this priority funding through the House and Senate. If both chambers approve the proposed funds, it will add to the $12 million Congress confirmed for the project in federal funding over the past two years.

Reclamation District 2140 President Lee Ann Grigsby-Puente said the district is thrilled with the president's recommendation.

"We are entering our fourth consecutive year of drought, but history tells us that the drought will end, and it will probably end with a bang," she said in a press release. "It is imperative that the project be completed as quickly as possible to avoid a catastrophic levee failure in Hamilton City."

The partners in the project, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Reclamation District 2140, and Central Valley Flood Protection Board, have plans to award a construction contract this spring and kick-off the first phase of construction during late summer or early fall.

LaMalfa said a "glitch" in timing last year put phase one of the project a year behind.

"I want to make sure this year the ducks are all in a row and things will get started they way they are planned," he said. "It is time to really get after this project."

But work on the project's 6.8-mile setback levee can't come soon enough for the small town's residents who have labored for more than 30 years to raise levee funds and pressured federal and state officials to remedy the flood risk.

LaMalfa said he gives much of the credit for the project's progress to the residents of Hamilton City.

"The citizens action group, fire department, sheriff's department, everybody has been working really hard, and I share their frustration on this.

"It has been an honor to work with these people and to see the work they are doing to bring this project to completion," he said.

Of the $52.4 million estimated cost for the construction project, it is reported $34.1 million would come from federal funding, and $18.3 million from state and local funding.

To offset Hamilton City's share of the costs, a deal was developed through The Nature Conservancy to donate land along the river for habitat restoration.

In addition, Reclamation District 2140 was awarded a grant of up to $5 million from the state, which in combination with other sources should be sufficient to cover the complete non-federal share of costs.

The J Levee was built in 1904 by the Holly Sugar Co. to protect farmland against a 10-year flood.

That levee, which has been breached by flooding and repaired several times over its lifetime, will be torn down as part of the federal project and the setback levee built

In addition, 1,400 acres of Sacramento River floodplain will be restored as part of the project connecting habitat that is a part of the Sacramento River National Wildlife Refuge and a Department of Fish and Wildlife State Wildlife Area creating a 4,000-acre riparian habitat.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which created the project blueprints, states the completed levee will protect approximately 3,700 acres against a 75-year flood.

The project, authorized in the Water Resources Development Act of 2007, was the first in the nation to be authorized for construction that was developed utilizing the U.S. Corps of Engineers' new guidelines for developing multipurpose projects that include both flood damage reduction and ecosystem restoration.

LaMalfa said he feels confident the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers can take a "big bite out of the project" with the current funding.

"And when we can show those results to the administration that appropriated the funding, I'm sure future funding will be appropriated based on the merits of the project," he explained.