Partnerships Drove Napa Flood Control Project

The Napa River's Oxbow bypass doubles as public park space and an outlet when the river floods. The project brought together local environmentalists and the business community.

1 minute read

May 24, 2017, 11:00 AM PDT

By Philip Rojc @PhilipRojc


Napa Oxbow Bypass

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers / Flickr

John King offers up a defense of the Oxbow bypass, a costly flood control project that doubles as a park. He writes, "it performed exactly as predicted back in 1998, when Napa County voters approved a half-cent sales tax to fund their portion of a multifaceted flood control project through the city of 80,000."

Backers of the "living river" were diverse, including the Sierra Club and the Napa Chamber of Commerce. "Environmentalists knew they wouldn't gain the necessary two-thirds support from voters without the backing of local business. Business groups understood that a safe attractive river might make the long-moribund downtown more enticing."

King acknowledges (but pushes against) critiques leveled at the project's expense. "Oxbow bypass didn't open until 2015, seven years after the project was supposed to be done. The budget soared past $500 million from an initial estimate of $220 million, due in part to the cost of purchasing 53 mobile homes and 44 structures along the river's path." 

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