A four-year project to repair and upgrade the levee system along portions of the Santa Ana River running between Riverside and Jurupa Valley will begin next month, enhancing flood protection for thousands of homes and businesses, officials announced Monday.

The Riverside County Flood Control & Water Conservation District, in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, will be overseeing the $36 million rehabilitation effort, which is scheduled to start in mid-September.

“We are looking forward to beginning this long-awaited and vital public safety project,” district Chief Engineer Jason Uhley said.

According to Uhley, the improved levee network will translate to greater flood control protections for roughly 4,300 structures, most of them residential properties in Riverside and Jurupa Valley.

The most extensive modifications will occur on the Jurupa Valley side of the river.

During heavy downpours, flash flooding is common in the Santa Ana. In recent years, however, flood risks have been reduced due to unseasonably low precipitation amounts.

One of the challenges moving forward is the presence of transient camps within and around the river bottom, officials said.

Dozens of encampments can materialize at any time, but the project area must be clear of dwellings to proceed.

“For the last year, we’ve mindfully partnered with several agencies to work with those experiencing homelessness along the river for the safety of all impacted by the project,” Uhley said. “We have coordinated these efforts with supportive services and safety in mind.”

The district has established storage space where transients can place their belongings for free.

Nonprofit organizations are collaborating with the county Department of Public Social Services, as well as the Riverside Office of Homeless Solutions, to find temporary or transitional housing for teh homeless impacted by the project, according to the flood control district.

In addition to bulking up flood defenses, the improved levee system will “support flourishing habitat for critical species in the river,” the district said.

More information is available at www.rcflood.org.

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