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The Sacramento City Council is expected to join other local governments Tuesday in opposing an area adjacent to the American River Parkway near the Nimbus Dam as a proposed site for a federal and state joint operations center handling flood control.
Warren Truitt, president of the Save the American River Association (SARA), said the operations center, if built at Nimbus, would be a “visual blight” on the area.
“It’s absolutely outrageous to place this high-security facility next to the parkway,” he said, “and it needs to be in a higher area, not at 28 feet. If the dam were to break, this area would flood along with other residences in that area.”
Currently, three sites are under consideration for the operations center, which will employ about 600 people and open as early as 2015. The other two sites include Mather Field and a commercial center near Kilgore Road and Sunrise Boulevard in Rancho Cordova.
The center will be a partnership between the National Weather Service, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the California Department of Water Resources.
Workers at the center will be tasked with flood management and flood control, as well as emergency management during floods.
“We’re still early in the process. A decision hasn’t been made,” said Russ Grimes of the Bureau of Reclamation. He added that public opinion on the issue will “absolutely be considered.”
A resolution opposing the site adjacent to the American River Parkway is on the Sacramento City Council’s consent agenda for Tuesday, a portion of the agenda reserved for items not expected to be controversial among council members.
Councilman Steve Cohn said putting the three-story, 200,000-square-foot center next to the American River Parkway below the Nimbus Dam is a bad idea.
“The primary purpose of the parkway is recreation and nature, and so we don’t want a real large office structure within it,” he said. “Also, if we really have a major flood, you would want your emergency operations center to be outside the flood zone.”
Sandy Cooney, a spokesman for the Department of Water Resources, said the flood risk at the site is minimal, as it’s outside the 200-year flood protection zone.
“If that area would be in any way at risk for flooding, so too would the entire city of Sacramento,” he said. “The flood would have to be significant and catastrophic.”
He added that all three sites are being considered equally and echoed Grimes’ sentiment that public opinion will play a large part in the decision-making process.
The operations center is nothing new, as it has been located near Watt and El Camino avenues for the past 15 years, Grimes said. It was known at the time that the agencies would expand, and with leases expiring in 2015 and the current space being too small, it’s time for a move.
Several criteria were needed for the placement of the center, including a redundant power supply – power coming from multiple sources – a size big enough to accommodate the employees, a location outside of the 200-year flood plain and, ideally, it would be on government-owned property.
The Nimbus site met all the criteria, as it is on federally owned property, he said. It is bordered by the Nimbus Fish Hatchery, residences and Hazel Avenue.
Sacramento County unanimously adopted a resolution in opposition to the Nimbus site Sept. 20, and the city of Rancho Cordova adopted a similar resolution the same week, said Ted Wolter, chief of staff for County Supervisor Roberta MacGlashan.
“A building three stories tall with security fences and security lighting 24 hours per day is not appropriate for this space,” he said, adding that support from the city of Sacramento would be welcome.
“I think it just shows the region is united,” he said. “While we really want these jobs in the region – they’re there now, we want to keep those jobs – we want them to be compatible with the American River Parkway.”
Truitt said about 300 local residents and parkway users came to a Sept. 22 public meeting at the Sacramento State Aquatics Center on nearby Lake Natoma in opposition of the Nimbus site.
He said the other two sites under consideration are adequate, and SARA will continue to work with government officials to try to keep the Nimbus site from being chosen.
Sacramento City Councilman Jay Schenirer said the city is aiming to join with the county in opposing the Nimbus site even though it doesn’t fall within the city because it is a regional issue.
“I think if you look at the parkway and kind of Sacramento’s role, we have a lot of residents that use it,” he said. “I’m actually on the parkway every weekend. I think it’s a wonderful place to get away from everything, to enjoy the natural beauty Sacramento has. Putting something like that on there changes the focus.”
Though Sacramento might oppose the site, the city has no direct power the site, as it is federal property.
Cooney reiterated that the process is in its very early stages, and no decisions have yet been made.
“There are all kinds of discussions happening about the three different sites,” he said. “The comments people make are critically important to this process.”
To view the public website for the environmental process of the center, click here.
Brandon Darnell is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow him on Twitter @Brandon_Darnell.