Padilla, Butler, Panetta, Lofgren Push for Sustained Federal Investment in the Pajaro River Flood Risk Management Project

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senators Alex Padilla and Laphonza Butler (both D-Calif.), along with U.S. Representatives Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.-19) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.-18), called for sustained federal investment in the Pajaro River Flood Risk Management Project in a letter to the Biden Administration. The lawmakers urged the continued prioritization of the flood risk reduction project, which is critical to protecting disadvantaged communities along the central coast of California.

The lawmakers previously secured $149 million through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for the project and pushed for an acceleration of levee construction to address the urgent flood risks along the Pajaro River. The lawmakers requested an additional $200 million from the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Construction General account to provide for the utilization of design-build techniques and the completion of this project for these vulnerable communities.

“The residents and businesses of Watsonville and Pajaro have been waiting for decades for urgent flood protection and during that time have suffered significant damage and loss of life due to flooding,” wrote the lawmakers. “We look forward to continuing to work with you to ensure this project continues to progress and provide the protection the people along the Pajaro River deserve.”

The Watsonville and Pajaro communities are over 80 percent Hispanic with per capita incomes that are well below the state and national averages. Many of these residents are employed as agricultural workers and are vital contributors to a $750 million annual industry in the area.

Senator Padilla has fought tirelessly for additional federal assistance for California communities devastated by atmospheric flooding. Last spring, he met with families, small business owners, and farmers in Watsonville and Pajaro impacted by the recent extreme storms in California after he and Representative Lofgren successfully led the California Congressional delegation in urging the Biden Administration to approve a Major Disaster Declaration. Padilla also pushed for additional federal assistance for Pajaro and communities in the San Joaquin Valley during an Environment and Public Works hearing last year. Additionally, he pressed Director of the Office of Management and Budget Shalanda Young to ensure adequate resources go to historically overlooked and low-income communities like Pajaro, which disproportionately bear the impacts of natural disasters due to a lack of adequate protections.

Full text of the letter is available here and below:

Dear Director Young and Secretary Connor,

As you develop the Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24) Work Plan for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), we write to request continued funding for the Pajaro River Flood Risk Management Project, an urgent flood risk reduction project along the central coast of California. We are grateful for the $149 million in funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, but request that you include an additional $200 million from the USACE Construction General account to provide for the utilization of design-build techniques to expedite protection for the disadvantaged communities in Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties, which are still recovering from extensive flooding in 2023.

In partnership with USACE and the California Department of Water Resources (DWR), the Pajaro Regional Flood Management Agency (PRFMA) is actively constructing a flood risk reduction project that has been decades in the making. PRFMA is seeking additional FY24 Work Plan funding to utilize design-build techniques to accelerate the next phase of construction. Furthermore, it is notable that USACE has certified the ability to expend these additional funds and the non-federal match is in place. Thanks to SB 489 signed into law by Governor Newsom, DWR is committed to providing 100% of the non-federal share for this project.

The residents and businesses of Watsonville and Pajaro have been waiting for decades for urgent flood protection and during that time have suffered significant damage and loss of life due to flooding. Today, the Watsonville and Pajaro communities are over 80% Hispanic with per capita incomes that are well below the state and national averages. Many of these residents are employed as agricultural workers and are vital contributors to a $750 million annual industry in the area. This often-unseen agricultural workforce helps to provide food security for the nation and in turn we have a responsibility to provide security for their lives and livelihoods through reducing well-known flood risks.

Thank you for your consideration of this request. We look forward to continuing to work with you to ensure this project continues to progress and provide the protection the people along the Pajaro River deserve.

Sincerely,

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