A public meeting was held at Veterans Memorial Hall Tuesday night hosted by the Sutter Butte Flood Control Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the Feather River West Levee Project set to start construction this year. (Photo by Lisa Van De Hey)

Construction of the Feather River West Levee Project (FRWLP) is slated to begin this year, led by the Sutter Buttes Flood Control Agency (SBFCA). As part of the process, a public meeting was held at Veterans Memorial Hall Tuesday, January 15, 2013, with nearly 50 people in attendance.

The project spans 41 miles of the west levee and local history was provided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and SBFCA during the two hour meeting held to gather comments on the draft environmental impact statement (EIS) and environmental impact report (EIR) released for the FRWLP in December 2012.

Pre-1850 the Feather and Sacramento Rivers frequently topped their natural banks, contributing to seasonal flooding. In the mid 1850's sediment from hydraulic mining caused river beds to rise and in the late 1800-1900s levees were privately constructed to combat overtopping.

In the early 1900s levees were improved and incorporated under the Sacramento River Flood Control Project by USACE.

The levee near Shanghai Bend was breached in 1955 killing more than 38 people. Oroville Dam and Reservoir were completed in 1967 adding substantial flood storage. New Bullards Bar Dam and Reservoir added flood storage in 1970.

A levee break on the Yuba River and slump on Sutter Bypass occurred in 1986.

Breaches on the Feather River and Sutter Bypass occurred in 1997.

Deficiencies have been documented in the west levee by USACE, DWR and SBFCA.

An assessment district was approved by Sutter and Butte County property owners in 2010 in order to make the necessary repairs.

The FRWLP is designed to improve 41 miles of levee from the Thermalito Afterbay south to approximately four miles north of the Sutter Bypass and will provide flood risk management benefits to Live Oak, Biggs, Gridley and Yuba City along with unincorporated areas.

The cost of the project is estimated at $300 million with the State of California to pay as much as 76percent of the project costs. Residents will pay the remaining share over 33 years through the assessment district.

USACE and SBFCA need Section 408 approval to modify levees. Section 408 ensures levee function is not impaired; Federal interest is maintained and that the project is not injurious to the public interest.

Approval is dependent on type of modification; foundation and embankment materials; intrusive nature of modification; potential for damaging levee and appropriate documentation.

The public meeting was held to give an opportunity for residents to speak with FRWLP representatives regarding planning, design and construction and learn more about the environmental process.

Comments can be made by mail or email to: Jeff Koschak of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 1325 J Street, Sacramento, CA 95814 or jeff.a.koschak@usace.army.mil or Ingrid Norgaard of SBFCA, c/o ICF International, 630 K Street, Suite 400, Sacramento, CA 95814 or ingrid.norgaard@icfi.com