Creek project may be delayed as long as a year

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WINTERS — The beavers will get to stay in Putah Creek a bit longer, thanks to a hold put on a restoration project this week.

The Central Valley Flood Protection Board has stepped in after hearing from a Winters resident who is opposed to the next phase of construction on the Putah Creek Nature Park, Winters City Manager John Donlevy said. The board is “exerting its permitting authority on the project,” Donlevy said.

The third phase of the project would realign the creekbed, moving it farther south and removing the stretch of creek next to the walking path, which is home to species of beaver and otter. That has raised the ire of many Winters residents, who objected at City Council meetings and wrote letters to the editor in protest.

Donlevy said the halting of the work is not in response to those citizen objections, but is a result of the action taken by the flood protection board.

Because of work schedules and environmental considerations such as bird nesting and fish spawning seasons, Donlevy expects it to be a year before the project could resume. Add in wet weather, and it could be even longer.

He said the city requested an expedited permit from the flood protection board, which responded that it will take until September before it will even look at the request.

“They’ll process it as they can,” said Donlevy, sighing heavily and adding, “Basically, the project is off for probably a year.”

Noting that many years of work have gone into the creek realignment project, with the blessing of both state and federal fish and wildlife agencies, Donlevy added, “It’s frustrating when in this case a regulatory agency chimes in at the last minute.”

The project was scheduled to begin last week.

A group of unidentified Winters residents calling themselves the Winters Friends of Putah Creek also is in the mix. They are represented by Davis attorney Don Mooney, who wrote a June 23 letter to the Solano County Water Agency, which is the coordinator of the Phase II project.

In the letter, Mooney writes, “The project does not comply with applicable laws and permit requirements,” listing violations related to the California Environmental Quality Act, lack of an encroachment permit for the project, a violation of the agency’s streambed alteration agreement and lack of compliance with the conditions of the Department of the Army permit for the Winters Putah Creek Nature Park Channel Restoration Project.

A meeting between the city of Winters, water agency representatives and Mooney was planned for Wednesday, July 1. An update of the creek project is planned at the next Winters City Council meeting Tuesday. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall.

— Reach Debra DeAngelo at debra@wintersexpress.com

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