Levees under Watchful EyeJan 27, 2023 12:00AM ● By By Michele Townsend
West Sacramento levees have experienced some natural erosion as seen in this slump near the Deep Water Ship Channel. Photo courtesy of City of West Sacramento Public Works
WEST SACRAMENTO, CA (MPG) - In 2019, the City of West Sacramento pushed for a decision to be made on an application submitted to Local Agency Formation Commission of Yolo County (LAFCo) ten years earlier about the maintenance of the city’s levee system.
LAFCo is a state-mandated organization that was created from the Local Government Reorganization Act in 2000. Its purpose is to oversee how local governments within their county can ensure the efficiency of services such as water, sewer, fire protection, etc., by boundary changes. These include mergers, detachments, consolidations, and formations of existing or new districts. In other words, they try to keep local governments’ spending more efficient by seeing what “departments” can be combined, and what should be separated.
In 2019, the City of West Sacramento and Reclamation Districts 900 and 537 were in disagreement about who would be more economically beneficial if left in charge of the care of our levees. Districts 900 and 537 agreed that the organizational structure of decision-making and all work done to our levee system should remain as it was. The City claimed that it would be more beneficial if they were to be in charge because they could consolidate different aspects of administration and cut administrative overhead. It would not just be one or the other, however. Either group will also be working with the Army Corp of Engineers and multiple city, county, state and federal agencies.
Ultimately, LAFCo made a decision. The City of West Sac would be the more economical way to go. The question then became, would the integrity of our levees and the safety of our community be at risk? Could we count on the City to keep us safe when taking the place of experts on the topic?
Well, it seems that LAFCo’s decision was a good one. When the City took over, they made sure that they had the right people in the right positions. Bill Roberts is the Director of Public Works. He came from Sacramento after 21 years of being in charge of their levees.
“West Sac has a lot more employees as opposed to RD 900 who can actually help and fix, repair or prevent problems with the levees and we have certified people, like myself and Bobby Santos, who that’s all we did over there was levees,” he said.
Roberts and Santos have been trained by DWR (Department of Water Resources) and the Army Corp of Engineers on how to care for, repair, and build levees. They do four inspections per year.
With all the rain that the recent series of storms brought, there has been natural erosion to the levees. This has prompted an action of preventative care.
The City of West Sac explained it as “More than likely, the slump was caused by water entering into the very small cracks in the levee. This levee is a clay levee, which shrinks and swells; shrinks when it is hot outside, swells when the soil gets wet. If too much water hits the clay levee too fast, the clay cannot absorb the water fast enough to swell closed, so water leaches into the levee. The clay gets over saturated, such that this extra weight caused the slump.
The tarping of the slump prevents additional water from entering the damaged section. This prevents additional slumping and erosion. The sandbags are used as weights to keep the tarp from flying away in the wind. This portion of levee embankment along the Deep Water Ship Channel is quite wide, approximately 250 feet. The amount of material that slumped poses no threat to levee safety and there is absolutely no threat of a breach.”
The City would also like to remind anyone who is along the river or deep water channel to be extremely cautious. It is definitely not recommended to have 4-wheelers out there. The ground is too soft and unpredictable. Though we are not in danger of a breech, there is a very real danger of a possible life-threatening situation occurring if the ground gave way from under your vehicle. Please stay safe.