Houx hearing Rock Creek concerns

Supervisor Houx represents Butte County’s 3rd District.

Larry Stephenson [“Rising Tide,” Oct. 25] has expressed his displeasure with the direction the proposed Rock Creek/Keefer Slough Flood Control Project is taking.

I need to clarify the process undertaken and ensure readers that the county has not provided any inaccurate factual statements.

The United States Army Corps of Engineers came to Chico in July 1998 at my request to “determine if there was justification to do a Feasibility Study.” A public meeting to announce the Corps’ intentions to conduct such a study was held in June 1999. The engineers from the Corps outlined what they would examine and that probably sometime in 2001 they would complete their feasibility study. Every potentially affected property owner in North Chico was sent a notice by first-class mail and urged to attend. Approximately 400 citizens were in attendance.

Following that, numerous individual meetings with the Corps informing the public and seeking input have been held during 2000 and 2001. The Corps has answered individual concerns, comments and questions. I attended most of those meetings and met with a number of individuals interested in the proposed project without the presence of the Corps. Stephenson attended his first meeting in early July 2001 to ask the Corps his own questions and to provide his thoughts.

There are many different options still under consideration in the feasibility study. Diverting water from Keefer Slough to Sycamore/ Mud Creek, an existing Corps of Engineers project, was thoroughly studied. This alternative, however, turned out to be the most expensive one considered. Other options include levees, floodwalls and setback levees.

Because of the concerns expressed by many about the use of levees, the county asked the Corps to try to figure out something else. The feasibility study has literally been put on hold.

One of the assurances given to the Corps and the state Reclamation Board is that this project is not being done to increase development. It is being done to prevent a disaster. This project is being done to protect existing personal dwellings, businesses and agriculture and to ensure that access to homes and businesses is safe no matter what the weather is.

For Stephenson to say that there is no documentation of damages is absolutely untrue. We have the documentation of the damages on the east and west sides of Highway 99. Those damages have been frequently shared with the public at public meetings. Greater damages occurred to the agriculture side. Some homes on the east side along both Rock Creek and Keefer Slough have suffered deplorable damages. Highway 99 has been closed because of severe flooding, as well as Cohasset Road.

On three different occasions I offered to meet with Stephenson, but he refused. I remain available and willing to meet with him or anyone who has an interest in this project.

Participation is necessary, and doing one’s homework to make sure statements are correct is extremely important. This is an incredibly complex project. It involves working with the federal government, many state agencies and local government, home owners, agricultural interest and business owners. In order to reach a solution that will preserve our property and safety we need to work together.