Greater Sacramento, California, is considered one of the most at-risk regions in the United States for catastrophic flooding.
Its location, at the confluence of the Sacramento and American Rivers, has made it necessary to rely on an aging system of levees, weirs, and passes, as well as Folsom Dam upstream, to reduce flooding.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, along with the Central Valley Flood Protection Board, California Department of Water Resources, and the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency, worked together to significantly reduce that flood risk.
The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 provided the Corps with approximately $1.5 billion of full upfront funding to efficiently implement upgrades to Sacramento’s flood risk management system.
This authorized work includes up to: 13 miles of seepage cutoff walls, 21 miles of bank protection, 5 miles of levee stabilization, 5 miles of levee raises approximately doubling the width of the Sacramento Weir and bypass.
As crews were preparing to get underway with the Sacramento River East Levee Contract 1 (SREL 1), COVID-19 presented itself. The reality of conducting business was transformed overnight, and normal day-to-day construction site activities as well as material and equipment availability, were significantly impacted.
Scheduled public meetings were canceled or postponed, and methods USACE had traditionally used to disseminate information and garner public input were redesigned. In short, USACE’s construction season was in jeopardy before it even began.
Despite these unprecedented challenges, construction of SREL 1 got underway in spring 2020 as scheduled. The construction encompassed approximately 3 miles of levee improvements, including a combination of seepage cutoff walls and seepage berms, at 5 locations along the Sacramento River East Levee.
It wasn’t always easy but after eight months SREL 1 was completed on time, ahead of the rainy season. While the team is still working hard to close out actions related to SREL 1, focus has shifted to the next phase of work, which is scheduled to begin this spring.
“Completion of these types of levee improvements in a single season is unprecedented,” said USACE project manager Nikole May. “It is a huge testament to the dedication, commitment and success of the entire USACE team, our partners, and our contractors.”
Sacramento River East Levee Contract 2 (SREL 2) is scheduled to begin by April 15, and like SREL 1 last year, crews are eager to begin as soon as possible to ensure the project can be completed this year. Communities at the southern end of Little Pocket and the northern end of Pocket will experience construction impacts this year.
SREL 2 will encompass construction of approximately 2 miles of levee cutoff wall improvements along the Sacramento River East Levee between Pocket and Little Pocket. A cutoff wall will also be constructed north of the Sacramento Marina, in the proximity of Broadway. Unlike SREL 1, access to boat ramps will not be impacted during this year’s construction.
Completion of SREL 2 is expected in December 2021.
By Susan Gudde-Barr, USACE