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Flood control veteran to leave post
Appeal-Democrat - 1/16/2019
Jan. 16--The work to provide Yuba-Sutter with the highest level of flood protection possible isn't yet complete, but the levees are much better today, having had the oversight expertise of the head of the Sutter Butte Flood Control Agency.
After more than seven years with the agency, SBFCA Executive Director Mike Inamine announced he would be leaving this week for a job with the California Department of Water Resources.
Inamine is credited with overseeing the design, state and federal financing, and implementation of $350 million in levee improvements during his time in the area, including the massive Feather River West Levee Project that spans from Thermalito Afterbay to south Sutter County.
"I'd just like to thank everyone in the community for the tremendous support for SBFCA, in their voting, both with the ballots and their pocketbooks, to put this project into place. It's their project; they are the ones that really built this," Inamine said. "It's just rare that you see a community center themselves around such a large project."
From the time he joined the agency's engineering program in 2011 to today, approximately 37 miles of levee has been improved, with even more in the works. He took over the executive director position in early 2012 after his predecessor was appointed to the Central Valley Flood Protection Board.
The most difficult part of the job for him, he said, was navigating the environmental and regulatory climate, both state and federal, required of any large project like the ones SBFCA focuses on. Inamine said every reach of levee improvement was met with some sort of issue. However, he joined the agency because he recognized how important the work was.
"I was very interested and motivated in making things better. It was a great project to be associated with and work on," Inamine said.
Steve Lambert, SBFCA board chair and a Butte County supervisor, said Inamine's mark on the community is indelible and that he will be missed.
"Mike's leadership, experience and expertise helped us overcome significant challenges -- such as funding, permitting and cultural resources issues, to name a few -- that should have derailed the project," Lambert said. "Thanks to his tireless efforts and 'never take no for an answer' approach, we received more state bond funding than we anticipated, finished 37 miles of levee repairs in four years, supported an expedited federal feasibility study that resulted in an upcoming $77 million federal project, and rapidly completed the Yuba City emergency repair immediately following the Oroville Spillway crises."
Andrew Stresser, general manager of Levee District 1 in Yuba City, said Inamine was instrumental in the flood fight effort during the high-water event in 2017 that had the potential to devastate the city due to an inadequate slurry wall in the levee.
"The community of Yuba City is much safer and better off due to his leadership and the seven years he spent here with SBFCA," Stresser said.
Inamine said there is never a good time to leave the agency with work still to be done, but with some of the projects currently underway and others in the planning stage, now is as good a time as ever.
SBFCA started a $22 million flood stage reduction project last year in the Oroville Wildlife Area that is expected to be completed within two years. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is also close to going out to bid for a $77 million project to improve a few miles of levee in the Sutter Basin -- from Cypress Avenue to Tudor Road.
Other projects planned for the future include some critical repairs to the flood control system south of Laurel Avenue, as well as some critical repairs to the Sutter Bypass. Also, a feasibility study is underway looking at floodplain management and flood control measures the agency could achieve moving forward in the rural portion of the basin south of Yuba City.
Friday marks Inamine's last day with the agency. In February, he will join DWR's Division of Engineering in a role focused on the Oroville Dam and addressing subsidence of the California Aqueduct.
He credits his colleagues at the agency and the board for remaining focused throughout the project and providing the leadership needed to get the job done. He also credited the agency's diverse collection of consultants who also played a huge part in the process.
"I think that it's been a fairly successful formula, but it wouldn't have been possible without such a diverse and talented team," he said.
SBFCA Director of Engineering Michael Bessette will step in as acting executive director once Inamine leaves. The board is expected to discuss a permanent replacement at its Feb. 13 meeting.
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