SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Flooding fears are leading to a fight to preserve the beauty along the American River, but new work to prevent catastrophic flooding in Sacramento is raising some environmental concerns.

One spot along the American River near Sacramento State is a popular place for hiking, biking and walking dogs, but now this nature area is about to be transformed.

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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is launching a new flood control project to strengthen this levee that protects Sacramento from flooding.

“The idea is to save property, save lives, save Sacramento,” said Jeff Harris, city council member.

The project requires removing trees and brush in a bend in the river, replacing the 5,000-foot-long stretch with rocks to armor the levee. But regular visitors fear the work will forever change the natural environment.

“It’s probably one of the prettiest places in the parkway and it’s going to be gone,” one Sacramento resident said.

So why is this levee project needed now?

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“When we have really extremely high water flows, this project will protect our levees from eroding away,” Harris said.

Those higher flows were made possible by an auxiliary spillway that was added to Folsom Dam four years ago allowing more water to be released ahead of strong storms.

Engineers have found that increases the potential for downstream erosion.

“It’s a very complex system of managing water,” Harris said. “I’m not real happy about it, but it probably has to be done.”

Once complete, flood control officials say the rocks will be covered with dirt and new trees will be planted.

“It might not look exactly the same and we’ll have to adjust to a little bit different visual for a while, but we’re going to save billions of dollars of property and probably many lives by doing so,” Harris said.

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The work is funded from a $1.8 billion federal flood control package for the Sacramento region. Construction is set to be complete by the end of the year.