pajaro river levee repair
Heavy equipment operators carve away portions of the Pajaro River levee west of Murphy Road Friday as part of a major repair on three sections of the levee. Photo: Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian

Next year, work crews will kick off a $400 million project to rebuild the levees in South Santa Cruz and North Monterey counties and keep the rivers and creeks from escaping and devastating the surrounding communities.

That long-anticipated work will be a relief to the people who live there, as well as the farmers and businesses that operate in the area, all of whom have endured numerous floods in the past seven decades since the levee system was built.

But until that work commences, officials in both counties are shoring up three weak spots along the 12-mile-long levee system that broke during recent winter storms.

Those officials gathered with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Friday near a section of the levee that abuts a farm just off San Juan Road to outline the work, which kicked off on Aug. 16, and is expected to wrap up in November.

“Now we have a real opportunity to go forward and really address this levee and address this flooding,” Monterey County Supervisor Glenn Church said. “This is going to be the beginning of an opportunity to make a better, stronger, more resilient levee.”

The damage to the three sites occurred in March, when weeks of heavy rains caused the Pajaro River to break free, sending torrents of flood waters into the town of Pajaro. Hundreds were forced to evacuate, and returned weeks later to layers of thick mud in their residences. 

The repair project will cost $20 million, and is funded through the Disaster Relief Supplemental Appropriations Acts of 2022 and 2023. 

Monterey County Supervisor Luis Alejo said that the ongoing work took cooperation from multiple agencies. It was also helped along by state lawmakers and Gov. Gavin Newsom, who are helping to ease regulatory requirements such as environmental review that would delay the project.

“All these actions demonstrate that there is a strong commitment that we will translate into action to get the levee project done once and for all,” Alejo said.

pajaro river levee repair
Santa Cruz County Flood Manager Mark Strudley talks about the levee repair project while joined by officials from Monterey and Santa Cruz County. Photo: Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian
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General assignment reporter, covering nearly every beat. I specialize in feature stories, but equally skilled in hard and spot news. Pajaronian/Good Times/Press Banner reporter honored by CSBA.


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