Emergency Work Underway on Garden Highway Levee

As most eyes were trained on the Oroville Dam up river, emergency work was underway on the Garden Highway levee in Sutter County.

The levee at the confluence of the Feather and Sacramento rivers showed signs of trouble Monday, with work continuing through the day Tuesday.

Inspection teams from the Army Corps of Engineers, the California Department of Water Resources and the local water district were also out Tuesday, looking for more problems. They are looking for so-called "boils," spots where the swollen Feather River has soaked through the levee and comes bubbling up the other side.

They have found plenty of boils.

"Most the time, when we have a high water event it comes and goes real fast. This year, we've been doing this since January. So these levees are good and soaked up. There's a lot of water moving. It makes you a little nervous," said Mike Daddow.

Daddow is heading a team of resident volunteers who patrol constantly. When they find a boil, they ring it with sand bags in an effort to stabilize it.

"All we have to do is get on the phone and people show up. It's a great community. We've all got a vested interest in these levies," Daddow said.

The boils got so bad right on the other side of the levee from the confluence of the Feather River and the Sacramento River, that reclamation district started emergency work on shoring the site up.

But just like the river rolling on the other side, many residents who've lived here for decades are rolling along with the situation.

"You pull your skirt up every eight to 10 years... yeah," laughed Mary Dippel, whose home fronts the Garden Highway levee.

Dippel knows a thing or two about high water. Not only does she live right next to the levee, she owns businesses in Oroville and Yuba City. Her two Supercuts barber shops have been shuttered for days over fears of flooding there.

But as the evacuations in Butte County begin to lift, she's less worried about her bottom line than she is about her employees.

"I care about whether or not their ends are getting met. We've been checking in with them to make sure everybody's OK and they've gone off to safe places and they're hanging in there," Dippel said.

Word came Tuesday that the mandatory evacuations were lifted, just as Mary was working out a plan to to hand deliver paychecks to the far-flung evacuation centers throughout the region.