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January 31, 2023

Pajaro Levee engineer’s report open for public comment

PAJARO VALLEY—The Pajaro Regional Flood Management Agency (PRFMA) recently released a draft of its engineer’s report for an assessment related to the long-awaited reconstruction of the Pajaro River levee, giving the public a chance to submit comments in advance of the agency’s Board of Directors’ meeting in April.

According to the engineer’s report produced by consultant Larsen Wurzel & Associates, the PRFMA would assess properties within the river’s flood plain to varying degrees to meet maintenance and operations costs for the new levee. The assessment would take into account, among other things, the parcel’s relative flood risk, its size, the size of the structures on the property and whether the land is being used for residential, commercial or industrial purposes. 

On average, the PRFMA says, a parcel with a single-family home will see an annual $192 charge added to their property tax bill.

The PRFMA is a new body established by the City of Watsonville, Monterey and Santa Cruz counties, the Monterey County Water Resources Agency and the Santa Cruz County Flood Control and Water Conservation Zone 7. It was formed last year to spearhead the repair and maintenance of the levee, which has several times breached and caused millions of dollars worth of damage in the Pajaro Valley.

The renovation of the levee, known as the Pajaro River Flood Risk Management Project, is expected to cost $400 million. The United States Army Corps of Engineers and California’s Department of Water Resources have agreed to foot that bill, but only if the PRFMA agrees to fund the day-to-day maintenance of the levee—in keeping with strict federal standards.

The annual estimated budget for maintenance is $3.8 million. Existing assessments already provide $2.6 million per year, meaning people living within the flood plain will have to fund the remaining $1.2 million.

The draft engineer’s report, along with any public comments submitted by the March 31 deadline, will be presented to the PRFMA board on April 13. At that meeting, the board could tell staff to send ballots out to property owners asking them whether they are willing to pay the assessment.

They would then have 45 days to return their ballot. 

Residents will be able to see how much their assessment will be before they vote.

Once the levee is reconstructed, the PRFMA says the project will give up to 100-year protection to residents who live in the flood plain around Pajaro River, Salsipuedes Creek and Corralitos Creek. The PRFMA has said that this will, in turn, reduce pricey flood insurance costs for many residents and completely eliminate them for others.


Property owners can calculate their assessment at prfma.org/assessment.

Tony Nuñez
Tony Nuñez is a longtime member of the Watsonville community who served as Sports Editor of The Pajaronian for five years and three years as Managing Editor. He is a Watsonville High, Cabrillo College and San Jose State University alumnus.

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