By Susie Steimle

NAPA (KPIX 5) — Strong winds took down trees and flooded the Napa River, but it could have been a lot worse if it weren’t for the city’s new “dry bypass” along the Napa River.

The gates have been the talk of the town, people are even stopping by to take pictures of them.

That’s because taxpayers put a lot of money toward this project that was meant to prevent flooding in downtown Napa.

And it worked.

“Just coming home, didn’t realize there was a tree down,” said Chuck Foster, who lives down the street from one of the biggest signs of the storm that hit the Napa Valley.

“It rained a lot and we had a little initial flooding but not so bad,” Foster said.

Crews spent the morning cleaning up downed trees and mudslides along major roadways that saw significant flooding, but for the most part things went as expected.

Steve Stangland with Napa County Public Works said, “Nobody was injured, nobody was killed. There was only one person caught in the flood, so everything worked.”

Napa city officials say this weekend’s storm could have been a disaster — but their $18.5 million dry bypass did its job. Construction finished in 2015.

Napa Mayor Jill Techel said, “This is something we invested in, something to keep us safe and look how well it worked. So the community has a lot of pride today.”

With help from the federal government the city excavated 6-8 feet of sediment allowing a larger volume of water to pass through here naturally.

“This was the first time water actually entered the bypass,” Techel said.

The bypass also lets the river jump its banks in a flat gated area. This prevents water from entering downtown as it has historically done during every major flood for more than a century.

“In 2005 you would’ve come into town today and seen road blocks, sandbags in front of businesses, everyone boarded up and closed,” Techel said.

The city still wants to continue with its flood improvement project and protect other flood prone locations in the area. But the federal government has put that on hold.

Napa will have to prove further construction is of federal interest to get more money.


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