A 5-mile stretch of levee in south Sutter County has been on the radar of local levee experts for a few years due to the amount of flood fighting required during high-water events – the latest occurring in 2017. 

Officials have tried to obtain federal funding for the project but to no avail, until recently. 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released its 2018 work plan that highlights new construction projects set to receive federal funding. Levee work in the Sutter Basin was included in the plan and is designated to receive roughly $50 million from the federal government – the rest of the cost will be shared between the state and the Sutter Butte Flood Control Agency.

“It’s a big deal. We’ve been chasing this federal appropriation for the past three years,” said Mike Inamine, executive director for SBFCA. 

“In prior work plans, our attempts have gone unanswered, so this plan is an important component for providing flood protection to the Sutter Basin.”

The stretch of levee that will benefit from the work is between Tudor Road and Cypress Avenue in south Sutter County – estimated to cost about $77 million. Inamine said that particular stretch has some of the highest levees in the region, but also those that are in the worst shape.

“Under a relatively modest high-water event in 2017, this reach of levee exhibited pretty extensive underseepage throughout. That resulted in a lot of rock placement to protect the levee,” Inamine said. “This is very much a welcomed investment in flood control for this region.”

The area where the work will be conducted, Inamine said, will augment levee improvements SBFCA has already completed as part of the Feather River West Levee Project, which spans about 44 miles from the Thermalito Afterbay to the Star Bend area and the area adjacent to Laurel Avenue in south Sutter County.

One component that makes the announcement unique, Inamine said, is that along with the appropriation, the corps included a provision in the work plan that could potentially allow SBFCA to carry out the project’s construction. 

Usually, the corps is in charge of design and construction of federal projects, but the provision included in the 2018 work plan allows the federal entity to work with a non-federal sponsor.

Inamine said the decision ultimately comes down to the corps, but if SBFCA is tasked with the job, they would work under the management and authority of the federal entity. 

“The first thing we have to do – because of the unusual language – is we will have to meet with the corps and state of California to see how they want to proceed, in light of this unusual provision. That’s the first step, and we plan on starting this afternoon,” Inamine said Monday. 

Who does the work is still to be determined. SBFCA has done some designing and permitting work ahead of time to help get the project moving in anticipation of being named on the 2018 work plan. 

Inamine said heavy construction could start as early as next summer.

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