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Napa County prepares to resume flood control work to protect Napa
Public works

Napa County prepares to resume flood control work to protect Napa

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Napa Flood Control Project

Food control work along Napa Creek in September 2012 behind the Napa Valley Opera House. Such sights could be seen again in coming years as the county works to resume Napa River flood control projects.

Amid a drought, Napa County is preparing to protect more than 2,000 city of Napa properties from the next flood.

The county learned earlier this year that the stalled Napa River flood control project will receive $48.3 million in federal funds. That has local flood control officials talking about the final round of projects.

Step one has been meeting with officials from the federal partner, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, by Zoom. Four flood control projects totaling about $94 million are to be done with a mixture of federal, local, developer and grant money.

The goal is to finally fulfill the promise made by Measure A, the now-defunct, half-cent flood control sales tax passed by local voters in 1998 — to end Napa River flooding that damages homes and businesses.

“We’re really excited to now have the funding to see it to the end,” said Richard Thomasser, manager of the Napa County Flood Control and Water Conservation District.

Flood control work has already dramatically reshaped the local stretch of the Napa River. Flood control terraces, bridge replacements at Third and First streets and Imola Avenue, the Veterans Memorial Park renovation and river promenade are a sampling of the projects.

But work ground to a halt after the 2015 flood control bypass was built between downtown Napa and the Oxbow area. Only recently have local officials convinced the federal government to renew the partnership.

Of the four planned projects, two are to be done in a partnership between the flood district and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and two by the flood control district.

First up is to be flood walls designed to prevent a storm-gorged Napa River from topping its banks near Lincoln Avenue and running down Soscol Avenue and into adjacent neighborhoods. That last happened during the New Year’s Eve 2005 flood.

“That’s our first focus,” Thomasser said.

The district doesn’t want to wait to complete an agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which could take four months to a year. Rather, it could start the design work itself to save time.

Thomasser said the district could hold a meeting for public comments on the project as soon as late 2021. The flood walls for this first project would run for about a mile on the west side of the Napa River from Imperial Way north past Lincoln Avenue to near the Elks Lodge.

Groundbreaking might be in 2023, depending on various factors, Thomasser said.

The estimated cost for this project is $40 million, with $26 million coming from the federal government and $14 million from local funds, district officials said. The district has about $50 million remaining from Measure A.

Flood walls are also to be built on the west side of the Napa River for about a mile from Imola Avenue along Riverside Drive to the Hatt building. The estimated cost is $25.4 million, with $22.3 million to come from the federal government and $3.1 million from local sources.

Then there are two projects that the flood control district will build for a total of $28.7 million without federal funding. Money is to come from the district, developers and grants.

One project is in the Oxbow area, which has both businesses and homes. Work is to be done on both sides of the Napa River.

The Oxbow area project will bring in private developers. For example, a luxury hotel is slated to someday be built on land about a block east of The CIA at Copia. Thomasser said the developer would build the flood wall and the district would do riverbank restoration.

“If they’re building a really high-end development, they don’t want us coming in later and tearing up the river bank while they’ve got a hotel operation going on,” Thomasser said.

A flood wall had been slated to be built along the river at the former Copia garden property on the south side of First Street. Thomasser said the latest thinking is the property will have fill instead of a flood wall.

The fourth project calls for flood walls to be built west of Soscol Avenue in the Tulocay Creek area north of Imola Avenue.

On Tuesday, flood district officials gave an update to the Flood Control and Water Conservation District Board of Directors. It seemed like old times when projects were plentiful.

For Board of Directors Chairperson and county Supervisor Brad Wagenknecht in particular, the session had resonance. Wagenknecht participated in the 2000 groundbreaking for the initial flood control projects.

“This is the first of hopefully a number of reports getting us moving on this part of the project,” Wageknecht said. “It’s very exciting.”

WATCH NOW: From the archives: Heavy construction in the Oxbow Bypass

Before crews could rebuild the long-gone China Point area in the middle of the Napa River, they had to drive huge "Sheet piles" into the river bottom to prevent erosion of the restored land. From October of 2014.

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PHOTOS: 20 years of flood control in Napa County

You can reach Barry Eberling at 256-2253 or beberling@napanews.com.

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Napa County Reporter

Barry Eberling covers Napa County government, transportation, the environment and general assignments. He has worked for the Napa Valley Register since fall 2014 and previously worked 27 years for the Daily Republic of Fairfield.

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