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Levee Repair - Construction

DWR Levee Repairs Program
Department of Water Resources

3310 El Camino Avenue,
Suite 140
Sacramento, CA 95821

Mailing Address:
P. O. Box 219000
Sacramento, CA 95821-9000

For public comments or questions e-mail:

Many of the levees were built by Chinese laborers using manual construction methods, such as hand shovels and wheelbarrows.

The Sacramento-San Joaquin levees were built in the mid- to late-19th century to prevent flooding on prime agricultural land. Most of the land was at sea level, and levees were frequently constructed on top of natural dirt barriers that formed along rivers and sloughs. Many of the levees were built by Chinese laborers using hand shovels and wheelbarrows.

By the turn of the 20th century, a large device called a sidedraft-clamshell dredge was being used to remove material from riverbeds to increase the size of levee barriers. Because dredging relied on these native soils, Delta levees are essentially built on a foundation of sand, silt, and peat, which make them susceptible to erosion, seepage, and breaks.

In 1917, Congress authorized the Sacramento Flood Control Project, which was completed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1960. "Project levees" built by the Corps were designed to provide superior flood control protection. Once completed, the general upkeep of project levees was turned over to local entities. There are more than 1,600 miles of State-federal project levees in the Central Valley, 385 miles of which are located in the Delta.

More than 700 miles of additional Delta levees are classified as "non-project." These flood control structures have been built and maintained by landowners or reclamation districts to protect agricultural lands. Frequently, they are not as stable as the project levees.

(For more information on Flood History and Flood Protection Levels, please click the links at upper right.)