After a decade of planning and two years of construction, a new-and-improved setback levee was recently completed along the Bear River west of the City of Wheatland. The new levee is a critical step toward achieving the Federal Emergency Management Agency's 100-year level flood protection for Wheatland residents, which means there is a 1 in 100 chance of a flood occurring that is larger than the system is designed to handle.
“This project not only increases public safety for Wheatland, but it also strengthens southern Yuba County’s entire levee system,” said Ryan McNally, Yuba Water’s director of water resources and flood risk reduction.
The project reduces flood risk for the community of Wheatland and addresses damage to the levee from high water events in 1986, 1997 and 2017. The improvements included adding 2,800 feet of new setback levee and adding stability to the broader levee with 7,800 feet of buttresses. The work created more gradual sloping along the levee, which reduces the stress on the levee and the chance of erosion during high-flow events.
“One of the big improvements we made was correcting a sharp turn in the previous levee structure that caused substantial erosion along the river, which would have continued to weaken the area’s flood protection over time,” said Tom Engler, a principal engineer with MBK Engineers and Reclamation District 817, which manages the Bear River Setback Levee.
Yuba County’s levees are maintained by local levee districts including RD 817, which manages several levees along the Bear River and Dry Creek west of Wheatland. Although Yuba Water does not directly oversee any levees in Yuba County, the agency provides significant funding to local districts for maintenance, repairs and improvements.
The California Department of Water Resources identified the levee as a critical erosion site in 2012 under its Flood System Repair Program and funded 90 percent of the $11 million project. Yuba Water provided an additional $1.1 million in project funding, along with an additional line of credit during construction. The project was completed on time and on budget.
Read more about Yuba Water’s commitment to flood risk reduction in Yuba County at yubawater.org.