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William Leady

Col. William Leady, left, Rep. Mike Thompson, Mayor Jill Techel and Sen. Barbara Boxer discuss some of the flood control work completed in downtown Napa while standing on the 1st Street bridge Sunday. Submitted photo

Federal, state and local public officials got an up-close look at the Napa flood control project over the weekend and the city hopes that might translate to additional funds to complete the work.

On Sunday, Mayor Jill Techel took Sen. Barbara Boxer, Rep. Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena), county Supervisors Keith Caldwell and Brad Wagenknecht, and Col. William J. Leady and Col. Michael Wehr of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on a tour of the project area, highlighting what differentiates Napa’s flood-control efforts from others around the country.

“We’re a community doing things differently, really integrating the project with the community and using some nonstructural ways to make the community safer,” Techel said, referring to the city’s efforts to prevent flooding not by constructing levees or dams, but by changing the shape of the earth, removing or replacing bridges that interfere with flood flow and creating a dry bypass to divert floodwaters safely from the Oxbow district.

Project manager Julie Lucido said the current price tag for completion sits at $440 million. In 1998, Napa approved Measure A, a half-cent sales tax to help fund the project. The city of Napa has raised $87 million through that measure as of June 2010, according to Lucido. The tax will end in 2018.

Techel said to see the project through, it is important for Napa to make itself known on a national scale so the country will invest in the remainder of the project. She said people are taking note, with the project being cited recently in several nationally-circulated publications as an innovative way to mitigate flooding.

“There’s no more stimulus money and they’re now saying no earmarks, so your project has to get funded through the president’s budget and through funds that are allocated to the Corps to fund projects that meet their standards,” Techel said. “We need to show them that we’re using alternative methods that can be an example and are worth their investment.”

Boxer, chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee in the U.S. Senate, has worked to secure nearly $50 million for the Napa River-Napa Creek project since 2005, her staff said. 

“I was pleased to see the progress that’s being made toward protecting Napa’s residents and businesses from flooding,” Boxer said. “I appreciated the tour and the chance to join with Congressman Thompson, Mayor Techel and Supervisors Caldwell and Wagenknecht to talk to Col. Wehr and Col. Leady about the efforts to keep the community safe.”

The city is now trying to find ways to fund the roughly $15 million to complete the Oxbow bypass portion of the project, which will create a pathway where floodwaters can flow so they do not drown the Oxbow district, said project spokesman Barry Martin.

Techel said the future of the project is dependent on word getting out that Napa’s solution to rising river waters is something of note. “We showed what we’ve done and where we’re going,” Techel said. “(The tour was about) making them feel good about what they’ve done and saying, ‘we need to finish this project that’s of national significance.’ ”

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