A flood control program for Merced County that was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1944 is still incomplete.
To this day, there's no flood control structure at Black Rascal Creek to keep the destructive waters from flowing into homes, as they did in 2006.
That work has been stalled because the flood control project has been under evaluation with the Army Corps of Engineers since the late 1990s.
Last week, to move the project forward, the county signed a $95,000 consultant contract with Peterson Brustad, Inc., a company that provides engineering services on water projects.
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"They have a very long success record of helping agencies, who, for various reasons, just can't finish a project," said Kellie Jacobs, an administrative engineer for Merced County. "This is what they do. And that's not what we do full time."
The contract will be paid from the county's general fund.
Jacobs said the county needed the Corps to look at a feasibility study for a flood prevention plan the county completed last year.
The Merced Streams Group -- which includes representatives of the city, county and Merced Irrigation District -- was created to deal with flooding in Eastern Merced County. Most of their work is done, with the exception of the Black Rascal project.
The lack of flood protection along the creek -- which runs east to west through town, north of Bear Creek -- has consistently caused localized flooding and millions of dollars in damage.
Peterson Brustad will help the county get approval from the Corps for a water basin near Yosemite and Arboleda avenues, east of the city, on county land. The proposed 70-acre detention basin could store 2,534 acre-feet, which is equivalent to 826 million gallons of water. (One acre-foot is around 326,000 gallons, or enough for a year for a typical Valley family.)
The company will also help the county find funding for the project. Construction, including land and environmental work, could be $29.8 million, according to the Merced County Association of Governments. (The flood of 2006, caused an estimated $12 million in property damage.)
The basin project would replace the previously planned Haystack Dam, which the Corps said was located in a critical habitat area. Black Rascal Creek is the only creek running into Bear Creek that has no flood controls.
Completing the infrastructure at the creek is a priority for the county government. "If this flood control project had been completed as scheduled, there wouldn't have been the floods in 1998 or 2006," Jacobs said.
Reporter Danielle E. Gaines can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or firstname.lastname@example.org.