santa cruz county supervisor felipe hernandez
Santa Cruz County Supervisor Felipe Hernandez. Contributed photo

As the days get longer, we have the opportunity to cherish the beauty of our community under the warm sunshine. However, our community has also been impacted by the effects of climate change, with frequent flooding and atmospheric storms in parts of Watsonville and the recent evacuation of our neighbors in Pajaro due to the flood disaster and devastation caused by the breach of the Pajaro River levee.

Expedited Levee Project

The Pajaro River levee project was scheduled to start in 2025, however, as a result of the constant advocacy by our office and others, along with the devastating floods this year, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla, and Congressmembers Jimmy Panetta and Zoe Lofgren held a press conference in Watsonville on April 11, announcing the permitting of the project would be expedited and that construction of the $400 million levee improvements could begin as early as 2024. Historically, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects that were funded by the federal government took into consideration the property values of the homes that would be impacted by the project. Communities with million-dollar homes are given priority and agricultural communities are often given a zero when calculating their funding formula. Thus, leaving communities like the Pajaro Valley to be the least competitive when it comes to having projects funded.

Pajaro Cash Mob

Join us the weekend of April 28, 29 and 30, as we come together to support the struggling businesses in Pajaro and help create a sense of normalcy. Pajaro may be in Monterey County, but they are our neighbors, and a part of our tight-knit community of the Pajaro Valley. We have a long history of coming together to support each other during difficult times, such as floods and earthquakes, and now we need to do it again. During the Cash Mob, we encourage you to bring your wallet and at least $50 or more to spend at the flood-affected businesses during that weekend. Every little bit helps to keep our local businesses going and make a positive impact on our economy. By working together, we can make a significant difference in the lives of those who have been affected by the floods.

Storm Recovery Efforts

It took a while for President Biden to sign a Major Declaration for Santa Cruz and Monterey counties for the winter storms, winds, flooding, landslides and mudslides beginning on Feb. 21 and continuing through March. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Small Business Administration, and multiple state and local agencies are available for assistance at two locations. The first location is at the Old City Hall, 250 Main St in Watsonville, open daily from 9am to 7pm. The second location is at Pajaro Park on 24 San Juan Road, where you can also receive FEMA and SBA assistance, along with limited state and county services. This location is open seven days a week from 9am to 7pm. Anyone who has suffered damage, regardless of the type of location of the impacted residence or business, insurance status, immigration status, or any other factor can access the information and resources they need to recover.

Neighborhood Clean-ups

The recent floods in the outskirts of Watsonville, particularly in the Interlaken area, have highlighted the critical role that community organizations, volunteers and staff play in supporting each other during times of crisis. Despite the challenges posed by these natural disasters, we have seen the power of community-oriented efforts to come together and support our neighbors. I want to take a moment to thank the community, neighbors, Trash Talkers, Watsonville Works, Watsonville Wetlands Watch, Team Rubicon, the Church of Latter-Day Saints and my staff for their tireless efforts in cleaning up the flooded areas. Their selfless acts of kindness and dedication to helping others demonstrate the true spirit of community and the importance of being a good neighbor.

If you still have sandbags and would like them to be picked up, put them on College Road or Laken Road near the sidewalks. They will be picked up by volunteers and county staff in early May. If you like to volunteer or need help, please email [email protected] or contact my office at 763.4712.

Salsipuedes Creek Clean Up

In early April 2023, Santa Cruz County Public Works cleared the culvert discharge at College Road to the Salsipuedes Creek in response to emergency conditions. It will help improve the flow of water toward the confluence of both Salsipuedes Creek/Corralitos Creek near Highway 152. We need to continue to prioritize community-oriented efforts and invest in disaster preparedness and response. By working together and supporting each other, we can build a more resilient community that can weather any storm.

Let’s show our community spirit and extend a helping hand to those who need it most. Together, we can make a difference and build a more resilient community that can face these challenges with compassion and strength.

Together, we can build a brighter future for the Pajaro Valley and beyond. 

Supervisor’s Update is a recurring column from Santa Cruz County Supervisor Felipe Hernandez’s Office.

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