Flood control, water quality work comes to California thanks to ARRA

DAVIS, CA, Feb. 17, 2010 -- Today, the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) highlighted the investments in California that are taking place as a result of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)...

DAVIS, CA, Feb. 17, 2010 -- Today, the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) highlighted the investments in California that are taking place as a result of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). One year after the passage of ARRA, the Recovery Act is providing $23,315,315 for flood control and water quality work through public and private partnerships and contracts.

"President Obama's Recovery Act has helped create and save jobs while providing flood protection and environmental benefits through two watershed projects and five floodplain easements," said Ed Burton, State Conservationist for NRCS in California. "USDA has used Recovery Act funding to create badly-needed jobs and stimulate local economies, help farmers and rural businesses make it through tough times, ensure that struggling families can put food on the table, and build and revitalize critical infrastructure in rural communities across America."

The Lower Silver Creek Project in San Jose is being undertaken with the Santa Clara Valley Water District (SCVWD) to alleviate flooding in an area of the city between Lake Cunningham and downtown San Jose that has suffered seven significant flood events in the past 50 years. At $19 million, it is the largest ARRA project funded by NRCS. The existing permits and design plans made this project especially "shovel-ready" allowing it to be NRCS's first ARRA-funded project to break ground on August 27, 2009. Construction on the first phase of the project was completed in October. Construction will begin again this spring.

In addition to widening the creek, the project is also notable for its significant "green" project design that adds vegetation, wetland habitat, and aesthetic and recreational values to the original flood control focus of the plan.

Currently SCVWD is further enhancing the environmental design of the Lower Silver Creek project through work with contract firms specializing in civil engineering, geotechnical engineering, structural engineering, landscape architecture and construction management.

The $285,000 Stemple Creek Project is providing land treatment on three agricultural operations, building upon ongoing efforts to improve water quality in the Stemple Creek Watershed located in Marin and Sonoma Counties, approximately 40 miles northwest of San Francisco. The Marin County Resource Conservation District (RCD) and the Southern Sonoma County RCD are sponsors for the ARRA-funded project. Treatment at one site is complete, the other two sites are in the process of being designed and contracted.

California also received $4,030,315 in ARRA funds for floodplain easements and restoration, allowing agricultural landowners to voluntarily convert 922 acres of frequently-flooded cropland to wetlands.

"These projects will protect and restore critical floodplain function and riparian habitat at five sites throughout California," said Burton. He added that the five easements will enhance fish and wildlife habitat, water quality, flood water retention, ground water recharge and open space. In the long term, the easements will also reduce federal disaster assistance payments, increase carbon sequestration with permanent vegetative cover, and safeguard lives and property from floods, drought, and erosion.

The easements are located in Colusa, Humboldt, Sacramento and Santa Cruz counties. Four of the five easements have closed and restoration work will be completed through contracts on three of the five projects this spring and summer. Contracts are being developed for expedited design and permitting work on the remaining two properties.

Partners on the floodplain easement projects include The Nature Conservancy (Sacramento), River Partners (Colusa) Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County, Land Trust of Santa Cruz County and Watsonville Wetlands Watch (Santa Cruz).

Some $145 million was available nationally through ARRA to restore an estimated 60,000 acres of frequently flooded land across the nation and create jobs in survey work, real estate, engineering, construction, and the sale and installation of native trees and plants.

More information about USDA's Recovery Act efforts is available at www.usda.gov/recovery. Log on to USDA's YouTube channel to view additional ARRA project highlights, videos are available at http://www.youtube.com/usda#g/c/2A468F5AC6EBCED.7

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