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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on October 20th, 2009, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 10, Issue 32 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 10, Issue 32

Contractors, officials break ground on Santa Maria River Levee repair project


Groundbreaking improvements
Government officials from the local and national level, along with representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, celebrated a groundbreaking ceremony Oct. 19 at the Santa Maria River Levee. The project is funded with money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and should be mostly finished by late 2011.
“This is the beginning—everything else was just the prologue.”

 Those were the words uttered by U.S. Rep. Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara) in her keynote speech at a groundbreaking ceremony for the Santa Maria River Levee improvement project on Oct. 19.

Capps, along with a handful of Santa Maria, Guadalupe, Santa Barbara County, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials, donned hard hats and scooped up dirt from the riverbed with golden shovels to mark the beginning of the $40-million project, which is funded with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money.

“Making the case for funds in Washington isn’t easy in today’s world,” Capps said before a crowd of about 100 people.

She commended the city of Santa Maria, city of Guadalupe, and county of Santa Barbara for their ability to work together as a team to make the levee repairs a reality. Officials from all of the government entities made multiple trips to Washington, D.C., to ask Congress to fund the project.

“There’s been a lot of [financial] loss in this community,” Capps said. “This is an opportunity to strengthen our infrastructure.”

The project will reinforce approximately seven miles of the levee, running from Blosser Road in Santa Maria to the Bradley Canyon Levee east of the city’s landfill, according to information from the county. The entire levee runs about 17 miles from the confluence of the Sisquoc and Cuyama rivers to the Highway 1 bridge in Guadalupe.

The levee has sustained years of serious damage since its construction in the 1960s, and is currently inadequately designed to withstand river flows, specifically the effects of a 100-year storm. In 2006, to the U.S. Army Corps added the Santa Maria River Levee to its nationwide list of endangered levees.

On top of improving public safety, the project is expected to boost the North County economy.

“A whole lot of people will be out here making a living,” 5th District Santa Barbara County Supervisor Joe Centeno said in his welcoming speech. “This project is going to make the community safer and hopefully people will have more money in their pockets, as opposed to sending it off to the insurance companies.”

According to a press release from the county, the project is expected to generate about 800 jobs—450 of which will be sustained locally—and pump approximately $120 million into the local economy.

The first phase of the project, worth $10 million, was recently contracted out to R. Williams Construction of Lompoc. The second phase should be awarded by February 2010 and completed in late 2011, county officials said.

Preliminary site work is scheduled to begin later this month, with the majority of the work slated for 2010. This includes excavating portions of the levee and replacing them with 8-foot layers of soil cement. Currently, the levee is composed of compacted river sand and a protective rock layer.

Once completed, the improved levee will protect more than 15,000 homes, according to reports from the county and city of Santa Maria.

For more information about the levee project, visit the county’s website,, and click on the ARRA icon.

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