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August 11, 2020

Pajaro River Levee scores first federal funding

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Pajaro River Levee has received its first confirmed infusion of federal funding, which is expected to move forward long-awaited storm safety and flood prevention upgrades, Congressman Jimmy Panetta announced Tuesday. 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Fiscal Year 2020 Work Plan provides $1.8 million to the Pajaro River Project in Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties, as well as $540,000 to the Santa Cruz Harbor. 

“The communities in Watsonville and Pajaro have experienced four major flooding events since 1949, and they simply cannot afford future damages,” Panetta said. “With our constant pressure and partnership, we were able to prompt the Army Corps to take these pivotal steps forward so that they eventually can be in a position to make critical repairs to the infrastructure on the Pajaro River.”

The Pajaro River Flood Risk Reduction Project was authorized by the federal Flood Control Act of 1966, and local leaders have been working with the Army Corps since then to secure the authority for construction. 

The  funding comes thanks to a final feasibility report for the Pajaro River project, which was completed late last year. This director’s report allowed the project to enter into its pre-construction, engineering, and design (PED) phase, which made it eligible for federal funding.

“The plan demonstrates the Corps’ will and commitment to fund flood control projects in economically disadvantaged and agricultural communities, and I look forward to continuing to partner with the Corps to bring this project to completion,” Panetta said.

Santa Cruz County Supervisor Zach Friend called the funding an “historic step.”

“Our advocacy won’t stop and our work won’t stop until our counties receive the protection we so desperately need,” Friend said. 

Fourth District Supervisor Greg Caput said the work came after more than five decades and 20 flood control projects.

“During that time, our communities have flooded at least eight times and experienced a very near miss in February 2017,” Caput said. “This funding will go a long way to address these occurrences in the future. The completion of the project would be life-changing for our communities. We look forward to working with the Corps in a spirit of cooperation, one focused on real progress and outcomes, and pledge to do all we can to support their efforts to secure a new start for our project.”

In addition to securing funding for the Pajaro River project, Panetta also secured critical funding to ensure the Santa Cruz Harbor channels remain navigable through maintenance dredging operations.

“The Santa Cruz Harbor provides our communities with economic, recreational, and educational opportunities by connecting us to the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary,” he said. “These funds support continued maintenance and protection of the Harbor’s waterways.”

Marian Olin, Santa Cruz Port Director, explained how the Santa Cruz Port District still operates as a government-owned business, and is funded almost entirely by user fees. 

“Additionally, Santa Cruz Harbor is the only small craft harbor that has agreed to share in the cost of dredging a federal navigation channel, so the work plan funding received from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers provides critical financial support,” Olin said. “[Panetta’s] tireless work on behalf of Santa Cruz Harbor has been crucial in securing funding, and is much appreciated.”

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