WEST SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – Construction began Monday on a new levee in the Southport neighborhood near the Sacramento River. South River Road is now permanently closed north of Linden and south of Davis.
“This has been the top priority for our city council for over a decade,” said West Sacramento City Councilwoman Babs Sandeen.
The 5.6 mile stretch of levee is one of the most vulnerable sections of levee in West Sacramento. Right now, it does not meet federal and state criteria and the city wants to fix that as soon as possible.
“The stronger the levees are, the better the protection that you have,” Sandeen said.
Project Engineer Ken Godleski told CBS 13 the system is the first of its kind in the area. Instead of demolishing the old levee, engineers will leave it where it is, create canals inside of it and build a second setback levee 200 feet away.
“Instead of being on the water side of the existing levee, as far as what the river level will be like, it’ll be on the new levee,” Godleski explained. “The main flows will go into the river and stay in the river. But this will be an area that gets flooded.”
The new levee is expected to provide 200 years of flood protection by 2020. Using denser materials like clay, it should guard against seepage, which was a big problem with the old levee made out of sand.
“It’ll provide the 200 year protection that we’re looking for but it also provide eco restoration habitat,” Godleski said.
Engineers hope water flowing through new canals from the river brings new vegetation and wildlife to the area.
But to make it happen, some homeowners had to relocate and 14 homes had to go.
“I think they understand the importance of having the protection for our 50,000 plus residents,” Sandeen said.
The project has a price tag of $170 million dollars. Part of the money will come from the Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the other part will come from the taxpayers in West Sacramento.
“Part of the reason why we’re getting the money is because West Sacramentans themselves taxed themselves,” Sandeen said. “Our tax payers here I think know that this is a top priority.”
Graham Boulton has lived in Southport for the last few years. While he’s not worried about his home flooding, he believes it’s better to be safe than sorry.
“We all want to reduce our taxes but if they’re going to a good cause then I don’t have a problem with that,” Boulton told CBS 13. “If the levees were to fail, depending on how they failed, it could be a complete disaster.”
Construction is scheduled to last until the end of 2018 but it’s dependent upon the weather. Godleski says if the rain holds off until the fall, the project will likely finish on time.
Back in December 2016, President Obama signed the Water Infrastructure Act, which included more than $1.2 Billion dollars for levee improvements in West Sacramento. That money will go towards improving at 52 miles of levees throughout the city.