case study:

napa county flood control district

The city of Napa had been devastated by floods for over 100 years, but previous flood control projects had met with resistance from the community. We were brought in to change that.


The Napa River runs for more than 50 miles through the heart of wine country, from Mount St. Helena to San Pablo Bay. It brings local communities beauty and recreational opportunities – and, during large storms, unwanted water. In 1998, Measure A passed, approving a half-cent sales tax to fund flood control. There was, however, some resistance to the project. A Community Coalition was formed to work with the Army Corps of Engineers to rework every element of the project to meet local needs. With a completely redesigned project and a last chance at federal funding, the Napa County Flood Control District asked Balzac to help them develop educational materials and work with the local media to generate support for this important issue.


Working with public affairs specialists in Los Angeles and San Francisco, Balzac developed communications messages and worked with the local media to generate positive coverage of the project. Letters to the editor, private conversations with key media, and a host of managed interviews got the message out.


With the increased pressure, an initiative by the County Board of Supervisors, Measure T, made it onto the ballot in 2012, prompted by actions of the Community Coalition. This measure extended the half-cent sales tax after Measure A ran out in 2018. With the addition of local media support which provided encouraging coverage of its progress, the project continues. Evidence of its success happened in 2017 when winter storms sent Napa River water gushing through the new downtown Napa flood bypass instead of through city streets.


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