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Supervisor Applauds Start of Pajaro River Levee Project

Greg Caput explains the work that will go on along the river over the next three months.

By Greg Caput, Fourth District Santa Cruz County Supervisor

After years of bureaucratic postponement, I am honored to announce that the Bench Excavation of the Pájaro River began this week! Surveyors from Pavex Construction began preliminary work to officiall remove dirt starting Monday.

Whereas we still need federal funding for , we will be significantly improving the River benches that extend from Highway 1 to Murphy’s Crossing Road over the next two years. Our work this summer will stretch across Riverside Street, from Blackburn to Highway 1 approximately.

In other good news, our Santa Cruz County Public Works department has secured a $2.96 million dollar grant in Proposition 84 funds from the California Department of Water Resources’ Local Levee Assistance Program. This money along with the remaining $2.5 million of our Proposition 50 funds assures sufficient funding for the following year as well, reducing the amounts that Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties would otherwise need to contribute. With our dreaded environmental permit processing behind us, the project is coming along nicely.

The Bench Excavation will not only improve the safety of economically disadvantaged communities in both Watsonville and Pájaro but will also enhance the environmental characteristics of the River, benefitting fish and wildlife by decreasing velocity in the channel and creating overbank resting areas and still water areas in the widened floodplain. As a result, sediment will more efficiently drain out of the river channel system by more natural geomorphic processes.

While we welcome the work being done on the Bench Excavation, County staff continues to position ourselves to receive funding for the Pájaro River Flood Risk Reduction Project, the big project. In the absence of federal funding, the County has financed the continued work on vital documents necessary to be eligible for the big project to come into realization. Once we have our completed General Re-evaluation Report and Environmental Impact Statement, we will be much better positioned to be awarded with the direly needed Army Corps manpower that our Pájaro Valley needs.

I am very grateful to be able to help improve the safety of neighborhood residents all along Riverside St. this coming summer and have held meetings for residents along West and East Front Street and adjacent areas to share the good news. I also continue to focus on serving not only the main stem of the River but all its tributaries as well. Numerous homes are within the Salsipuedes/Corralitos Creek flood zone and as we work along Riverside St., the County will continue to pursue all funding opportunities to protect the Senior Village, agricultural lands and all other affected persons.

Please consider that there will be significant truck traffic until mid-October 2012 on Riverside Drive, West Beach, Judd Road and Lee Road.

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