Whether the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will consider Napa County’s pitch for another $76 million for Napa flood protection remains the $100,000 question.
Local leaders continue pressing to keep the Napa flood bypass – scheduled to be completed in mid-July – from being the finale of the city’s flood control project, approved by voters in 1998. They want federal dollars to pay for additional flood walls along the Napa River in the central city.
In September, the Napa County Flood Control and Water Conservation District released a $415,000 study that makes its case. The sticking point has been getting $100,000 added to the Army Corps budget so the agency can review the study.
That $100,000 is not in the latest Army Corps work plan, district engineer Phillip Miller said. But the district isn’t giving up. It will try to simply give the Army Corps local money to do the review.
Richard Thomasser of the flood district said the district can’t simply send in the report with a $100,000 check. Rather, it must first reach a contributed fund agreement with the agency.
Miller said this effort is underway.
“It seems very straightforward,” Miller said. “It’s the timing of it going through the system. It’s going to take time.”
Among the remaining, proposed flood control work is building river flood walls along the west bank from Imola Avenue to downtown, in the Oxbow area, along the Auto Row area of Soscol Avenue and along the west bank in the Lincoln Avenue area.
Without those walls, parts of Napa are still vulnerable to a 100-year flood. The Army Corps previously concluded that the benefit from the additional, proposed flood protection isn’t worth the expense under federal spending guidelines.
The district’s study tries to change the cost/benefit equation. It shaves $92 million from the original plan by eliminating or reducing various components, for a project cost of $76 million.
Without the $100,000 added to its budget, the Army Corps Sacramento District cannot review the study. Corps spokesman Tyler Stalker said the money is needed for labor costs across a number of disciplines to do the necessary analyses.
The Army Corps could review the study and disagree with its conclusions, all but guaranteeing that no federal dollars for the remaining flood projects would be available. Even under that scenario, Miller doesn’t propose that the district give up.
“We would try to find another way,” he said, though he noted a Plan B for alternative non-local funding sources doesn’t exist.
Meanwhile, the city will soon have a major piece of the flood control project to celebrate. The quarter-mile-long, $16.8 million bypass linking the downtown and Oxbow area could be completed in mid-July, one month later than previously announced.
No local leader is complaining about the delay. It comes about after the Corps agreed to restore the original landscaping plan at a cost of $1.8 million. The extra time will be spent planting the bunch grasses and other vegetation to control erosion.
Miller said a public celebration of the bypass completion could come in August. By waiting until then, the flood district hopes to attract not only Rep. Mike Thompson to the event, but also U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer and Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
“It also gives us some time to mature the landscaping a little bit so the grass will look like grass,” Miller said.
Currently, workers are lowering McKinstry Street at the northern entrance to the bypass. This segment of McKinstry Street is closed while the work continues.
Miller said the McKinstry Street phase remains on schedule to be completed by May 12, 40 days after the closure began.