The Colusa County Board of Supervisors last week recognized Sacramento River Westside Levee District Commissioner Tom Ellis, a lifetime Grimes resident, for 19 years of dedication and leadership on flood control issues that are unsurpassed in the Sacramento Valley.
Ellis’ understanding of the most volatile river in the U.S. and his passion for the Sacramento Valley’s flood control systems were passed down through his family from his grandfather, who owned and operated dredges used to construct portions of the valley’s amazing flood control system, county officials said in proclamation.
“Commissioner Ellis has been and will continue to be our best educator regarding the flood system,” said Board Chairwoman Denise Carter. “His passion for learning and sharing this information is unmatched.”
Carter said Ellis was the first in Colusa County to engage in the Senate Bill 1086 process, a bill passed by the California Legislature in 1986 aimed at restoring 100 miles a riparian habitat along the Sacramento River.
Ellis’ participation eventually led to the Sacramento River Forum, a nonprofit organization whose goal was to make sure that the program respected the agricultural industry, property owners, and river communities.
Ellis, along with Maureen “Lady Bug” Doherty, also led the charge in the mid 2000s for the state to address the flood threat from a neglected Tisdale Bypass (six miles downstream from Grimes), which had become clogged with sand, silt, wood, and vegetation.
Their fight ultimately resulted in the state awarding more than $4 million to remove nearly 2 million cubic yards of sediment from the weir in order to restore the performance of the important flood control system. Another 400,000 cubic yards of sediment will be removed later this year (Aug.-Oct. 2020), according to the California Department of Water Resources.
Ellis has long educated state flood control and wildlife management officials on issues that have resulted in better maintenance measures that protect communities from the Sacramento River, as well as educates landowners about the need to also share in the financial responsibility of flood control measures.
“Commissioner Ellis has always believed that the first priority is taking care of what you have,” Carter said.
In addition to flood control issues, Ellis has been a stalwart in the agricultural community through his support of the Farm Bureau and Alfalfa and Forage Industry. He and his wife, Rose Anne, are considered the foundation of the town of Grimes.
“The Colusa County Board of Supervisors extends their sincere appreciation to Commissioner Tom Ellis for his service on the Sacramento River West Side Levee District for the past 19 years, and his lifetime of service as a leader in our community,” Carter said. “Few have made as broad an impact on their communities as Tom has through his volunteer efforts.” ■