Jul 30, 2014

Watch: Flood Control Tames Napa Creek

Formerly a narrow, debris-choked hazard to neighborhoods and downtown Napa, the creek now flows in a wide channel with "trash racks" to catch flotsam on its way downstream. Our video shows Napa Creek a few hours after flood stage Friday mornin

Storms have long spelled trouble for the neighborhoods along Napa Creek.

An innocuous trickle for much of the year, the creek can quickly swell with winter's rains to become what one local woman called "a raging, muddy monster."

Even after the Napa County flood control project, using local sales taxes and federal funding, removed several houses that were closest to the creek, others in the neighborhood still suffered during flood years.

During the New Year's weekend storms of 2005-2006, the creek burst its banks and soaked many homes, leaving residents ankle-deep in mud and debris with back-breaking cleanup jobs to do.

That was the final straw for a group of neighbors who banded together, called themselves In Harm's Way and lobbied local authorities relentlessly until Napa Creek was moved up on the list of flood-control projects, ahead of the still-uncompleted Oxbow Bypass.

Nearly seven years later, the finished creek project appears to be doing its job. Although Napa Creek surpassed its flood stage of 10.5 feet early Friday morning, no water escaped into the neighborhoods.

Anticipating high water, earth-moving machinery was stationed behind the Napa Firefighters Museum, where new "trash racks" catch and screen waterborne debris before it can clog under bridges, causing overflow.

But the yellow bulldozer stood idle Friday morning as the creek's brown waters swept past without mishap. Wet mud along the sides of the widened channel showed how high the water had risen before subsiding. 

Watch our video to see the new Napa Creek and its trash racks a few hours after flood stage Nov. 30, 2012.

Newly-elected Napa city council member Scott Sedgley said he believes Napa Creek flooding is a thing of the past, but that while the Oxbow Bypass remains unfinished, the Napa River is still a flooding danger east of downtown.

When completed — a timetable that rests on the federal government providing more than $20 million in matching funds for the county's sales-tax-funded contribution — the Oxbow Bypass will channel flood waters beneath the recently-raised Wine Train tracks, through the existing Cinedome parking lot just south of the cinema and city Parks and Recreation building and back into the river. 

Do you think the flood control project is doing its job? Tell us in the comments.

  • Napa River Flood Warning Continues
  • Real-Time Water Level Data for Napa River and Creeks
  • Flash Flood Watch Extended in Napa County
  • Flood Warning for Napa River Issued Saturday

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