Skip directly to content

Janet Levers

Janet Levers representation as flowers
Retired School Teacher
I am an environmentalist at heart.

Janet Levers is a retired science teacher from the Woodland School District.  Though she lives a mere two miles from Cache Creek, her connection to the creek stems from her sheer love of the creek as a place that has provided her and her family a place to play, has been a source of water, and tied her personally to nature.  Levers actively participated in the gravel mining debate of the 1990s, a participation that has greatly increased her connection to Cache Creek and the Yolo County community.



What’s your favorite part about living on the creek?

My water comes from Cache Creek, so how about if that’s my favorite part.  I’ve known the creek all my life, so I’ve just been a part of it and I’m close to it now.

Can you describe any parts of the creek that you have fond memories of?

The creek has actually tried to kill me twice, and I figure the third time would be the charm. I thought the gravel wars would probably kill me but they didn’t.  When my children were young, I would take them to the lower stretch, which is close to the Correll Pits, and my kids would play in the creek, so that’s about the best place.  But I also enjoy the upper reaches at the regional park, and rafting on it.

What were the “gravel wars?”

The gravel wars, in my perspective, were the culmination of a lot of early skirmishes from about the 1950s on about what was being done to Cache Creek and the water supply.  They were tied into a lot of agricultural issues, a lot of flooding and drought issues, and a lot of political and financial issues.  They ended up with a polarized, underfunded community bitterly going up against the industry and politicians about the fate of both the in-stream mining and both sides of the creek.

Who were on the different sides of the “gravel wars,” and what did each side want?

On the side that I worked with were a lot of elderly people, a lot of them are dead now, a lot of them had cared for a long time about what they saw happening to Cache Creek and could do nothing about it.  There were some of us who were younger who felt that we could make a difference or participate to change the direction that it was going.  The Friends of Cache Creek tended to be a lot more people along the creek, andin Woodland and Davis.  Some serious events occurred downstream from the Capay Bridge, and a lot of us grouped in the Cache Creek Basin Resource Coalition.  We were talking more about what was happening downstream and specifically on the channel and off-channel.  The resources of Cache Creek are not limited just to the streamway.  The water is a resource, the land, the soil, and the gravel is a resource there, and the wildlife habitat, certainly.  There were a lot of citizens finding issues that resonated with them and working with groups that would attempt to influence what was happening.

How did you get involved in the “gravel wars,” and why?

I got involved at the time of one of the most egregious incidents which was downstream, between the Capay and Esparto Bridges. At that time, that mining interest was Cache Creek Aggregates.  That’s a very erodible stretch of the creek, and a big area of the north bank came off and the miners munificently agreed to get it out of the stream so that it wouldn’t be blocking the channel.  They piled it up on the north side of the creek, had no permit to do that part of the operation, and no permit to process that material and get it out of there.  At that time, things were coming to a head politically with the Yolo County supervisors, the planning commission, about how actions were viewed on the creek.  Our group really took a strong stand.  After two and a half years or so, we filed suit against them and won in the Superior Court in Yolo County.  The long term gravel mining ordinance was in the works at that point and they were put on hold, basically. I think they ran out of money.  That was a very contentious time. 

Why did you get involved in addressing issues associated with gravel mining on the creek?

Because I’m an environmentalist at heart.  I’m a child of the 60s, let’s start there.  I saw the treatment of a place so local, some place I loved.  I saw what was being done to it, knew what the creek had been like, and felt that I had to do something.

What did you want to address?

I saw an utter disregard for Cache Creek.  A friend told me about the beauty of the area, the incredible trees, the wildlife, the side-pools, the natural system present there.  Not even fifteen years later it was a wasteland, an absolute wasteland.  Solano just decimated the place.  There are huge piles of overburden stacked out there, and I had seen that.  People that were trying to speak for the creek and its environment were not being heard, and I wanted to be involved in trying to be heard.

 What was the best part about being in the Cache Creek Basin Resource Coalition?

The wonderful people that I met.  We had a great sense of empowerment from each other and the connections we made and the actions that we took.  I made many friends and felt that we did our best.

What were you trying to do, and how did it go?

We worked together very hard, very long, very well.  We participated in hundreds of meetings, thousands of hours of reading documents.  The first thing the county attempted was called the Dames and Moore EIR.  Our group presented a volume that spoke for our whole group, 600 questions about what the Dames and Moore document had come up with.  I truly believe in response to that, the Dames and Moore firm just quit.  They definitely didn’t like our approach to dealing with this.  

 What do you feel your group was able to achieve through its participation in the “gravel wars?”

 What Cache Creek Coalition’s effort accomplished was teaching me about the futility of citizen participation in the political process, because citizens get overrun by vested financial interests.  I say it repeatedly, that if politics is as bad at the local level, I understand why our country is in so much trouble, because citizens do not have a voice, do not have a chance standing up against entrenched power.

Written by: 
Andrea Herman

To download the audio, right click on the audio link above and scroll
to "Save link as . . ." and choose the directory where you want to
store the mp3. In Windows, you may have to use Control + S to select the link.