Sacramento District planner nabs top award by ipr10496


									Sacramento District planner nabs top
Jun 11, 2009

By William Warren Byrd II (Sacramento District)

                              SACRAMENTO, Calif. (June 11, 2009) -- A long-sought
                              compromise has been reached to settle a decades-old flooding
                              issue along Orestimba Creek in Newman, Calif., thanks to one of
                              Sacramento District's own.

                              Sara Schultz, a water resources planner in the Sacramento
                              District planning division, is the 2008 recipient of the U.S. Army
                              Corps of Engineers Planning Excellence Award. Schultz was
                              recognized for her success in bringing together the people of
                              Newman with state and federal agencies involved in the project,
                              and for employing planning strategies that rejuvenated the
                              once-stalled Orestimba Creek Feasibility Study. The study
                              looked at ways to reduce flood damage in Newman and
                              surrounding agricultural areas. By identifying a workable
                              solution, she garnered a broad coalition of support from the
                              sponsor, local landowners, agency representatives and interest

"It's a surprise and an honor," Schultz said about being selected. "It is so nice to be
recognized. Everyone on the team should be recognized, as well. It was a group effort."

An array of alternative plans was developed in the 10 years since the feasibility study began.
Schultz said that they were evaluated based on economic benefits, hydraulic effectiveness,
overall costs, real estate requirements and potential environmental effects. Newman was
flooded in 1995 and 1998.

David VanRijn, deputy, Civil Works, and senior project manager, said her efforts never go

"Sara has been an incredible asset to the team. Her understanding of the Corps planning
process is outstanding," VanRijn said. "Sara has provided the team with focus and direction in
the development of the problems, opportunities and alternatives. Her guidance has pulled this
project out of eight years of unfocused analysis. This planning guidance and leadership has
exponentially increased progress and prevented wasteful analysis keeping the project on

"One of Sara's biggest strengths is her ability to take complex policies and regulations and
explain them in a way that team members, congressional members, media, sponsors, and
stakeholders understand the issue and how they interrelate," VanRijn continued. "This team
would not be on budget, focused and engaged without Sara. Sara's skills and ability has also
established a positive and trusting relationship with our sponsors, giving the Corps an
excellent reputation with these sponsors."

After the 1998 flood event, local government officials contacted the Corps for assistance. A
feasibility study was initiated in 1999.

Early in the study, local interests supported the construction of a dry dam at the mouth of the
Orestimba Creek Canyon. Various agencies, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
opposed the dam alternative as creating effects to the existing Sycamore Alluvial Woodland at
that site, which could not be mitigated.

For several years, the project was at an impasse, as the dam supporters claimed it was the
only way to provide flood protection to the study area and the dam opponents claimed the
costs and environmental effects would be too high. When Schultz became involved with the
project four years ago, she and the rest of the planning team persuaded the project
stakeholders to step back and re-examine the full range of alternatives to solve the flooding

"That is the way the planning process works," Schultz said. "We develop the costs and benefits
of each of the alternatives. Then we determine which alternative has the highest net benefits
or basically the most benefits over costs." The alternative with the highest net benefits
becomes the plan the Corps recommends.

The team identified a chevron levee alternative, which would construct levees 3-to-4 feet high
around the town to protect it from flooding. Local residents weren't happy at first about that
idea, because some of them lived outside of the protected area.

So the Corps began looking at the creek channel, Schultz said, and noticed that the middle of
the channel was constricted. They looked at doubling the flow of the channel.

The Newman residents accepted this hybrid plan, which was a combination of a levee to
protect the town and widening of the channel to protect the agricultural area.

"We had achieved a major breakthrough," said Schultz, who began working for the Corps in
1998. "We had all pulled together. Using the planning process, we were able to get people all
on board.

"We identified the problem, looked at all the potential solutions to find the best solution," she

The hybrid plan was created last fall and presented to Newman residents in February. The
agencies, including Fish and Wildlife, support the new plan. The project is still in the feasibility
stage, but getting to this point has taken 10 years. The final feasibility report is expected next

"I'm happy that we are moving forward on a deserving project, and will make it work for
everyone's benefit," Schultz said.

Her recognition marks the second year in a row a Sacramento District employee won the
award. Michael Dietl received the 2007 award.

Editor's note: Public Affairs Specialist Carlos Lazo contributed to this article

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