Federal, state and local leaders broke ground Tuesday on the biggest levee project ever undertaken in West Sacramento.
The Southport Levee Improvement Project along the Sacramento River is one of four designed to bring West Sacramento up to the state-mandated 200-year level of flood protection.
The $170 million levee will also meet stricter federal standards put in place after Hurricane Katrina. It's designed to improve six miles of the most vulnerable part of the city's levee system.
“The federal government changed the levee standards to focus as much on water seeping underneath the levees as going over it," says West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon. "Much of what we’re doing today is preventing that from occurring as opposed to making the levees higher and higher and higher which is what we did during the 20th century.”
Cabaldon says the levee will also sit further away from the river to provide environmental benefits.
"We're building a series of levees inside the levees, to allow for the river to meander a little bit more during flood events and to create additional habitat," says Cabaldon.
West Sacramento is slated to receive $1.2 billion in federal funding for flood protection projects. California Congresswoman Doris Matsui says with climate change there is a greater need for improving the levee system.
"It's important that we know we're safe, but we need to actually raise the level of flood protection ultimately beyond 200 year," says Matsui.
The project will likely take two years to complete.