Water Vortex warning American Canyon wetlands

A sign posted last year at Wetlands Edge Park in American Canyon warned of the danger of a water vortex caused by a drainage pipe and tidal action. A dog was swept into the pipe and died in September 2016, and a second dog nearly died last month in the same location.

J.L. Sousa, EAGLE

One year after a dog drowned at the American Canyon wetlands, another canine nearly lost its life last month to the same culvert that sucked it under the water.

Resident Barry Christian, who frequents the wetlands, reported during a meeting at City Hall on Sept. 25 that he encountered a woman who told him her dog almost drowned after being pulled through a pipe that channels water into a nearby pond.

“So this is a second incident,” said Christian, referring to September 2016 when another woman, Christine Magley, was visiting the wetlands for the first time and had her two large dogs pulled under by the tidal suction. One them, a 40-pound Labrador, drowned.

This time, a woman — who was not identified by Christian — saved her dog after jumping into the water.

“This dog survived,” he said. “It got pulled all the way through [the pipe]. I could see it had some scrapes on its head and stuff.”

Christian said the woman “was distraught, crying and soaking wet cause she had jumped in after the dog to save it.”

The woman told him her dogs were leashed, but that one of them got away from her while adjusting the leash on the other dog.

Following last year’s drowning, the city of American Canyon doubled the fencing near the culvert and posted signs warning people to stay out of the area.

Christian said his recent trip to the wetlands revealed some of the fencing had been “stretched,” presumably from people slipping through it to go down to the water.

Other visitors to the wetlands have told him that they’ve seen children and teenagers in the water.

More fencing may not be the answer, said Christian, who serves on American Canyon’s Open Space Advisory Committee and as the city’s representative on the Napa County Regional Park & Open Space District.

He said he wants “the culvert removed.”

“I’m hoping it can be eliminated eventually,” he said. “It remains a hazard.”

“We’ve already lost one animal, so to me it’s a matter of time if we don’t get this taken care of.”

After being informed by Christian about the latest incident, Parks and Recreation Director Creighton Wright worked with Public Works Director Jason Holley on another solution.

Holley told the American Canyon Eagle that they are planning to “install T-bar fence posts” with about two feet of “horse corral” fencing at the bottom and to string wire at the top that will be secured by stainless steel fasteners.

In total, the city will put in about 700 feet of fencing, according to Holley, which will be designed to prevent animals and people from getting through.

“We are in the process of taking inventory and purchasing materials,” he said. “The materials will take two to three weeks to arrive. I expect the work will be complete by the end of October.”

Wright estimated the work will cost the city $15,000—$20,000.

The city will also look into posting a sign or buoy in the slough to warn boaters or kayakers about the danger, per a request from the Open Space Advisory Committee, which reviewed Wright’s fencing plans at a meeting on Oct. 4.

“We will look into that as an addition,” said Wright.

The culvert, located just off a public trail that winds along the river, was installed long ago to allow tidal bay water to enter into the wetlands ponds as part of a restoration project.

Water draining into the pipe can create a small vortex that is at its strongest during high tides.

Signs posted in the wetlands last year by Magley after the death of her dog read: “VERY POWERFUL gravity vortex in the water during rising tide.”

“Don’t let the little whirlpool on top of the water fool you!” Magley wrote. “PLEASE! PLEASE! Don’t let your dogs in the water in the North Slough.”