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Hamilton City Levee Setback

Sacramento Valley Region

Hamilton City Levee Setback

  • Location: Sacramento River near Hamilton City, Glenn County
  • Project Sponsor: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Reclamation Dist. 2140, Central Valley Flood Protection Board
  • Time Frame: 2005–2011
  • Cost: $60.8 million
  • Project Objectives:
    • Reduce flood risk
    • Reduce flood damage
    • Improve quantity and quality of habitat
    • Restore river function

Hamilton City is located on the Sacramento River approximately 80 miles north of Sacramento in Glenn County. The population of 2,000 and the surrounding agricultural lands are only marginally protected from flooding by an old (1904) substandard private levee called the J Levee. This levee only offers protection against a 10-year flood, and as a result Hamilton City has been evacuated because of flooding concerns six times since 1980. Citizens of Hamilton City attempted to formulate a solution over the past 30 years but could not produce a project with a positive cost-benefit ratio. In 2001, the Corps of Engineers created new planning policies that credited both flood damage reduction and ecosystem restoration. This policy, together with a new collaboration of flood control advocates, state and federal resource agencies, and environmental organizations resulted in the first project alternative in more than 20 years that met requirements for federal participation.

Key features of this multipurpose project are removIng the degraded J Levee and replacing it with 6.8 miles of setback levee, and restoring approximately 1,400 acres of Sacramento River floodplain. Flood protection for Hamilton City and surrounding agricultural lands will be increased from less than a 10-year level to a 75-year level. The project enjoys broad-based and bipartisan support through a balanced approach that meets the needs of a diverse partnership.

The project was authorized in the Water Resources Development Act of 2007. Pending full federal funding for fiscal year 2011, construction will begin in the spring of that year, generating about 245 jobs. The local community continues to participate actively in moving the project forward. Citizens have held annual Levee Festivals, started in 1998, to sell homemade food and have raised more than $100,000 through direct donations and proceeds from the festivals. The community also formed a new Reclamation district and assessed themselves for annual operation and maintenance funds. This is a true multipurpose project that will result in major improvement to the riparian and aquatic ecosystem of the Sacramento River. The new levee will be set back from the river to reconnect and restore riparian lands. Approximately 1,400 acres will be restored to native habitat using techniques pioneered by The Nature Conservancy, connecting habitat that is part of the Sacramento River National Wildlife Refuge and a DFG State Wildlife Area. The resulting total area of 4,000 acres of riparian habitat will directly benefit the 50 listed species that inhabit the area, including four runs of Chinook salmon, steelhead trout, raptors, and neotropical migrant birds.