WATSONVILLE—Gov. Gavin Newsom on Oct. 1 signed a bill into law that gives full funding to the long-awaited Pajaro River Levee Project, giving 100-year protection to the people who live in the South County communities that are prone to destructive flooding.
Senate Bill 489, authored by Sen. John Laird, authorizes the Department of Water Resources (DWR) to advance funds to the Pajaro River Flood Risk Management Project.
“The current configuration of flood protection, a levee system constructed in 1949, provides only five-year flood protection along the Pajaro River and seven-year flood protection along Salsipuedes Creek,” Laird stated in a press release. “Since its construction, the region has experienced six major floods—the 1995 event caused over $95 million in damages and two people lost their lives. SB 489 is my commitment to prevent disaster in the communities surrounding the Pajaro before it strikes again.”
In June, voters approved a property tax assessment that will fund the maintenance and operations costs of the levee, once the project is completed.
“Piece by piece we’ve worked to remove every legislative and funding barrier possible to make the levee project a reality,” said PRFMA Board Chair and Santa Cruz County Supervisor Zach Friend. “This legislation allows funding to flow even faster from the State, ensuring that we stay on track to have this project begin as soon as we possibly can. This is another example of a significant investment in equity and safety in our community and we are grateful that our state delegation and the Governor continue to actively support the Pajaro River project.”
Last year, Newsom signed Senate Bill 496, also authored by Laird, which authorizes the state to pay up to 100% of the non-federal costs of the Pajaro River Project from the Flood Control Subventions Program.
Newsom’s signature of SB 489 is considered the final piece of the funding puzzle, allowing the state to advance funding to the Pajaro Regional Flood Management Agency.
“Senator Laird’s tireless work on behalf of the communities this project serves has been crucial in making flood risk reduction a reality for the people of the Pajaro Valley,” said Mark Strudley, executive director of the Pajaro Regional Flood Management Agency.
Senate Bill 489 takes effect on Jan. 1.