NEWMAN — A feasibility study 14 years in the making to address flood relief from Orestimba Creek finally is complete and available for public viewing and comment.
The study outlines a plan to build more than four miles of levee at a height of up to 7 feet and a cost of $44 million.
The Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District released the study and environmental assessment earlier this month and will accept comment on the study until Feb. 7.
In addition to the levee, the plan calls for an advanced warning system based on stream gauges at several points where the creek historically has overflowed its banks.
The warning system would be combined with an emergency evacuation plan including a reverse 911 system that would alert surrounding residents of the flood threat, especially if the flood peak occurs during the night, as happened in 1995.
In March 1995, Orestimba Creek experienced the largest storm over 78 years of record. The floodwater overwhelmed the channel and flowed across agricultural fields, backing up against a railroad embankment and inundating the city of Newman, according to the report. The flood caused an estimated $5.6 million in damage.
Stanislaus County subsequently prepared a Hazard Mitigation Grant Application in January 1996, initiating an analysis by the Army Corps of Engineers.
Fourteen years later, the study is complete, at a cost of $7.2 million, about half of which was covered by Stanislaus County. The study originally was estimated to cost $1.3 million when it was started in September 1998.
The cost of construction is also $14 million more than originally anticipated. This is mostly because local officials are heeding to more stringent California legislation for flood protection for "urban areas" with a population of more than 10,000, which Newman is quickly approaching, said Michelle Williams, project manager for the Orestimba Creek project.
The "locally preferred plan" will raise the levee by two to three feet and increase the local match to federal funding of the project to about half instead of 35 percent.
The federal government will pay for $22.7 million of the project, but the rest must be covered by local and state funds.
Citing an "aggressive and optimistic" time line, Williams said the authorization process should be complete by the end of this year. She estimates that the next step, the design process, will be finished by March 2015, with project completion by 2017.
The comment period will remain open until Feb. 7, in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act.
The draft report can be reviewed on the district Web site, at http://1.usa.gov/ZhJWXb.
It is also available at the following locations:
The Newman Library, 1305 Kern St.
Newman City Hall, 938 Fresno St.
The city's website, www.cityofnewman.com/component/docman
For comments, questions or requests for report copies, contact: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District, Attention: Robin Rosenau, Environmental Manager, 1325 J St., Sacramento, CA 95814.
Rosenau may be reached at (916) 557-5397 or Robin.M.Rosenau@usace.army.mil.
Bee staff writer Erin Tracy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2366. Follow her on Twitter, @ModestoBeeCrime.