Friends of Napa River (FONR) is a community organization whose mission is to “be the community’s voice for the protection, restoration, responsible development and celebration of the Napa River and its watershed through education and advocacy.”
The organization recently hosted the “Living River Celebration” event at the Westin in Napa to honor the elected officials who have supported FONR, and specifically the Oxbow Bypass Flood Channel project. Channel Lumber has been a long-standing supporter of FONR, and was a donor for the event.
Historically, the Napa River is prone to flooding. In downtown Napa, the river makes a hairpin turn and when water levels are high, the river naturally floods into a straight line. This causes damage to infrastructure, and has prevented the downtown from being developed as insurance companies would not cover flood damage in the area.
Twenty years ago, the Army Corp of Engineers proposed a cement channel to redirect the river in downtown Napa. The residents of Napa did not like the aesthetic of the channel, and subsequently the “Living River Plan” was created. The plan involved buying land along the river, removing infrastructure and toxic soil. It also included a more appealing Oxbow Bypass, which eventually became a park and trail network along the river known as the Oxbow Commons.
The community voted to fund the project with a small sales tax. The tax along with matching grant funds and private donations has paid for the Living River Plan so far. The strategy has been successful with the ecosystem being restored, animals returning, and development in downtown Napa. There are still more phases of the plan to be completed and FONR is actively working with the community and government to fulfill the vision of the Living River Plan. Please visit the Friends of Napa River website for more information.