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HAMILTON CITY — Residents along the west bank of the Sacramento River have kept their fingers crossed. The hope is for federal funding to rebuild the J Levee, which protects Hamilton City and nearby farm land from flood.

Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, said the project is inching its way through the congressional funding system, and is among a handful on the hot list.

Hamilton City and various state, local and federal agencies have worked out a plan, and then waited … and waited, and waited. The work would include miles of setback levees and habitat restoration.

(See project details here: http://goo.gl/eIU9R).

Receiving start-up funds was close several times. Yet, in the recent economic downturn, new projects were not approved by the federal government.

For the past several years, the federal government has passed a “continuing resolution.” This has continued funding, without considering new projects.

However, this year, the budget will go through the appropriations process where various committees decide which funds go where.

Last week, Congress passed the Omnibus Bill, with room to fund up to four new projects, and possibly the Hamilton City J Levee.

While nothing is certain, LaMalfa said Hamilton City has a good chance of being funded under the category of new ecosystem restoration projects. The main competition is from a project in Louisiana, which has a significantly larger price tag.

Only one can be funded in this category.

LaMalfa, as well as Rep. John Garamendi, D-Fairfield, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, along with others, have been working for years to push the project, community members in Hamilton City have said repeatedly.

“We”re cautiously optimistic,” LaMalfa said this week.

Even if the funding is approved, it will only pay for a portion of the $60 million levee project. Yet, once the first bulk of money flows, future allocations are approved more easily.

The original levee was built in the early 1900s, and protects the town of about 1,800 and nearby farm land.

The Sacramento River has broken through the levees twice since the 1970s and has required emergency repairs six times since 1983, most recently in 2007.

Citizens within Reclamation District 2140 voted to tax themselves to raise about $75,000-$80,000 a year for costs related to a future levee.

Reach reporter Heather Hacking at 896-7758, hhacking@chicoer.com, or on Twitter @HeatherHacking.

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