City gets $1 million grant for flood project
Former City Council member challenges project
Published: Saturday, February 25, 2012 at 4:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 24, 2012 at 12:26 p.m.
A project funded by a nearly $1 million grant to further protect the city from flooding is being challenged by a former city council member who claims it will increase the flood risk in downtown Petaluma.
Last week, the City of Petaluma announced that a grant of $993,375 had been approved to implement the Denman Reach Phase 3 project of the River Access and Enhancement Plan. Among its goals, this grant continues the work of the Petaluma River Flood Control Project that was completed between 1997 and 2008 at a cost of $40 million.
Flood mitigation included replacement of the Lakeville and Payran Street Bridges and removal and replacement of the railroad bridge at Lakeville Street, among other projects. The initial work also included creation of a flood terrace about 1000 feet south of the area covered by the new grant, the Denman Reach, which is north of the intersection of Corona Road and Petaluma Boulevard North.
With a land acquisition grant of $850,000 received last year from the Natural Resources Agency-California River Parkways program, the city will purchase 13 acres of vacant land along the east side of the river at the north end of town. It will then use the recently awarded grant money to construct 1300 linear feet of a flood terrace designed to increase the carrying capacity of the river, says Pamela Tuft, Special Project Manager at the City of Petaluma Department of Public Works. “This will reduce the depth of the flood waters so that more of the water will be in the river rather than in people's buildings,” she says.
The project will also include removal of non-native invasive plant species like blackberry bushes which will be replaced with native plants, ground cover and canopy plants that will provide habitats for animals.
In response to the announcement of plans for the grant, former Petaluma City Councilman David Keller on Monday sent a letter to the city on behalf of the Petaluma River Council calling for an examination of where the additional water will go downstream after the river's capacity has been increased.
“It is the dream of property owners to get their properties out of flood designation and get the water out of banks reduced,” he says, “However, it is not sufficient to store the water, it is moving downstream and it changes the timing of the way the waters move and the way the waters interact with the waters downtown. D Street and I Streets near the river will now be in the flood plain. There is nothing in the report that addresses this.”
Keller is calling for the City to heed studies done in 1995 by the United States Army Corps of Engineers which stated that additional upstream runoff to the Petaluma River would lead to diminished protection of a so-called 100 year storm event (meaning a rare, 1 percent chance severe storm).
“The predictions are there from their own mapping and outside agencies that the downtown area will have increased flooding,” says Keller. “It is shameful that we will benefit upstream property owners to the detriment of the downstream owners. We need an Environmental Impact Report. That would produce the information for policy makers and the people to make a rational decision on the overall benefit of this project,” Keller says.
On Wednesday morning, Tuft declined to respond directly to Keller's statements before reviewing them with other city staffers, noting that the city “would take into careful consideration all citizen concerns and comments about the project before proceeding.”
The Denman Reach project is part of the City's long term plan for incremental improvements to reduce river flooding which over the last three decades has caused millions of dollars in property damage.
“This is part of a regional solution to slow down the water and keep it along the river,” says Tuft, adding that the project is scheduled to begin soon. The City plans to acquire the properties in the next few months, create the project designs and put them out to bid so that work can begin at the end of 2012.
(Contact Elaine Silver at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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