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100-Year Flood Protection Project in Pajaro Advances

WHAT TO KNOW: The Pajaro River Flood Risk Management Project will construct levees and improvements along the lower Pajaro River and its tributaries to provide 100-year flood risk reduction in the area – up from the existing eight-year level of protection. Since taking office, Governor Newsom has advanced funding and key legislation to move the project forward and protect local communities.

SACRAMENTO — Governor Gavin Newsom today highlighted progress on the Pajaro River Flood Risk Management Project, which will provide 100-year flood risk reduction to the City of Watsonville, the Town of Pajaro and surrounding agricultural areas. The Governor has signed legislation to provide advanced funding for the project, cover 100 percent of non-federal costs, and streamline environmental review.

Today, state, federal and local leaders commemorated the signing of the Project Partnership Agreement, which outlines the cost sharing and execution of work under the project that will be managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in partnership with the Pajaro Regional Flood Management Agency. Construction is expected to start in the summer of 2024.

“California is investing in the infrastructure and tools needed to meet the challenges of extreme weather across the state,” said Governor Newsom, who this March met with local leaders and first responders in Pajaro working to repair a levee break and support residents. “This project is critically needed to protect communities in the Pajaro Valley, and I thank Speaker Rivas, Senator Laird and all our partners working to make it a reality.”

The Governor, in partnership with the Legislature, invested a total of $436 million in the most recent budget to support flood response and projects to protect communities from future flooding. Of this funding, $40 million was provided to the communities of Pajaro and Planada for flood relief this summer, including direct relief to residents and workers regardless of documentation and citizenship status.

State action to safeguard Pajaro Valley communities

  • The Governor last month signed AB 876 by Speaker Rivas, an urgency measure that streamlines environmental review of the Pajaro River Flood Risk Management Project to expedite levee repairs.
  • The Governor signed legislation in 2021 to cover up to 100 percent of the non-federal costs, which is estimated to total $210 million of the $599 million in project costs.
  • The Governor signed legislation in 2022 authorizing advanced payments for early-stage work on the project.
  • Of the state’s cost share, $15 million has already been provided for key early-stage work on the project.
  • DWR has positioned two flood fight material containers near Pajaro in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties for rapid deployment if needed this winter.
  • The State-Federal Flood Operations Center is conducting pre-season emergency response coordination meetings across the state, including with Monterey and Santa Cruz counties, to give local counties and communities the resources and training needed to respond to potential flooding.
  • DWR and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation are following forecasts closely and are coordinating to ensure the state’s reservoirs have flood space available to prepare for a possible second year of flood conditions, and store as much water as possible.
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