Inmate work crews reinforce J Levee 'just in case'

Jan 21, 2016 6:52 PM by Cecile Juliette

CalFire Salt Creek Inmate Fire Crews are hard at work, shoring up a section of the 'J Levee' ahead of the next round of storms to hit Northern California. California State Parks Ranger Supervisor Kirk Coons says, 'We're tarping the levee, just in case floodwaters do cap over the levee.' He says the inmates are laying black plastic tarp over the embankment to prevent water from penetrating the holes created by rodents, and to stave off erosion. After that, they lay sandbags over the tarp, held in place by ropes. Coons points to shredded, faded bits of old tarp, partially buried in the levee's ground, revealing past efforts to protect the more-than centuries' old levee from river erosion. The J Levee has been a near-constant topic of stress for the town of Hamilton City for many years. It was built long before the current safety standards set by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Stretching nearly 7 miles of private riverbank east of Glenn County's Hamilton City, it's just yards from the banks of the river. City officials say the town has been evacuated several times after heavy rains and spring's run-off. Says Hamilton City Fire Protection District Chief Dan James, 'I remember three times in my time here that we've evacuated. Once the water lines get to a certain height, that's the trigger point, and that's when we decide to evacuate the town.'

The 'Hamilton City Flood Reduction and Ecosystem Restoration Project' has been in the works for years. The goal is to create a new, taller, more fortified levee set further inland. The Federal Government has agreed to pay for more than half of the nearly $73 Million project. Crews will break ground on it in the spring, but Glenn County voters must pass a permanent tax initiative in order for the project to be completed.


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