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Hamilton City Ecosystem Restoration Project

(Above) Looking north towards the community of Hamilton City, the Sacramento River flows past the project site and CDFW’s Pine Creek Unit (in foreground). During this initial phase of the project, a new setback levee will be constructed to provide greater flood protection for the community and the existing “J Levee” (where the gravel road can be seen in photo) will be removed to reconnect over 500 acres of floodplain to the river. River Partners is currently working to restore approximately 925 acres of former flood-prone ag land to high-quality riparian habitat. (Photo by Stephen Chollet)

Hamilton City project map
Hamilton City project map (Click for larger version)

The small community of Hamilton City is located on the west bank of the Sacramento River, about 85 miles north of Sacramento. An early 1900s-era levee  (known as the "J Levee")  was originally constructed along the west bank of the river to protect fields of sugar beets owned by the Holly Sugar Company from flooding. Although the levee offered some flood protection for the small city, it did not meet modern engineering standards, was expensive to maintain, and was susceptible to failure. In fact, the city has had to evacuate six times in the past 35 years from fears that the J Levee would fail.

Levees such as the J Levee that are placed directly adjacent to rivers end up constricting water flows, making them vulnerable to failure. They can be overtopped during high-flow events that are larger than the levee was designed to contain, or they can fail from poor, outdated engineering.

The modern solution is to build “setback levees” farther back from the river, allowing the river to meander along its natural floodplain, with floodwaters spreading out and slowing down over a wide area. Retaining water in natural floodplains relieves pressure on narrow levees upstream while helping to lower river levels downstream.
The Hamilton City Flood Damage Reduction and Ecosystem Restoration Project will involve constructing a 6.8-mile setback levee that will reconnect 1,480 acres of floodplain to the Sacramento River. The lands located inside the new setback levee will be restored to riparian habitat by River Partners for the benefit of wildlife and people

The restored lands will include riparian forest, scrub, oak savanna, and grassland habitat. The reconnection of floodplain with the river will also support the recovery of endangered salmon as well as other birds and mammals.

View Our Project Webcam

Thanks to a generous donation from our friends at Klean Kanteen, we installed a webcam on the project site to monitor progress over time. Our webcam takes high-resolution photos every 15 minutes in the middle of every day and will do so until Phase 1 of the restoration project is completed in December 2020.

More information

River Partners Will Assist in Historic Flood Management Project at Hamilton City
Mike Cook, Sacramento Valley Regional Director
River Partners Journal, Fall 2016

Restoring Floodplains at Setback Levees
Irv Schiffman, River Partners Board of Directors Chair
River Partners Journal, Fall 2017

$8.6 million contract will restore 770 acres as part of J Levee project
Chico Enterprise-Record, October 11, 2016

Flood-prone town protects itself against waters while letting a river roam
Sacramento Bee, June 23, 2017