Recovery planning in Pajaro is entering a new long-term phase, more than four months after the Pajaro River levee was breached during heavy rain. The breach flooded the area and caused widespread property and infrastructure damage.
The Monterey County Board of Supervisors received an update Tuesday on the transition to long-term recovery from Kelsey Scanlon, director of the county’s Department of Emergency Management.
The department created dedicated contacts for the community as part of a task force that will begin seeking input on the best way to rebuild the largely residential and agricultural unincorporated community, including ways to use $20 million earmarked by state lawmakers for Pajaro.
The task force will be comprised of six subcommittees—agricultural and economic recovery, health and social services, housing and community development, infrastructure recovery, natural and cultural resources, and public safety recovery.
Each subcommittee will have representatives from county staff and two to three yet to be named community members.
The director of the task force will be Vicente Lara from the county Health Department. The community liaison will be Daniel Gonzalez, who can be reached at 796.1909.
The task force team will be built through August and will then create a planning committee by December, according to a timeline presented to the Board of Supervisors by Lara. The team will perform community engagement through April and submit a draft recovery plan by May. Monthly reports will be given to the Board of Supervisors throughout the process.
“A year seems like a long time from now,” Supervisor Chris Lopez said.
Lara agreed but said the team would need to balance the need for thorough community engagement with the desire to make improvements quickly.
“One of our main goals for this project is to make sure that we have solid relationships with the stakeholders of Pajaro,” Lara said. “And so we really want to make sure that we’re moving the plan forward, but also giving us enough time to build those relationships with those stakeholders, because we know that once that document is drafted, we need to have a solid group of community in Pajaro that’s going to move that plan forward.”
There were no public community meetings scheduled as of Wednesday.
Part of the planning process will include deciding how to use $20 million that the state Legislature earmarked for recovery in Pajaro as part of Assembly Bill 102.
According to the legislation, the funding can be used for several purposes, including vehicle replacement, rental assistance, and other direct assistance, regardless of citizenship status.
The county must demonstrate that the use of the funds is not available from any other source, including federal assistance programs, which are otherwise helping offset the roughly $94 million in damage to housing, $30 million to commercial structures, and $600 million in agricultural losses attributed to the storm and flooding.
As part of the shift away from short-term recovery, the disaster assistance recovery center at Pajaro Middle School stopped operations last Thursday. However, a deadline to apply for assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency and U.S. Small Business Administration was extended to Sept. 1. Applications are available at tinyurl.com/5c7rha33.
Emergency repairs to the breach areas of the levee are scheduled to occur in the next 2-3 weeks, according to a Monterey County spokesperson.
Long-term repairs on the levee will be made by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Design work is scheduled to be completed by spring and construction is scheduled to begin in late summer 2024, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The first phase of the work will be to the north of Watsonville, in Santa Cruz County.
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