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Speaker Rivas Moves to Expedite Pajaro Levee Upgrades

For immediate release:

SACRAMENTO, CA— California Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas introduced legislation today to speed up vital flood control upgrades along the Pajaro River. The levee system saw extensive damage during this past winter’s storms, causing devastating flooding in the community of Pajaro.

This amended legislation addresses an urgent need to accelerate the project’s timeline before the Legislature concludes its work in Sacramento for the year.

“The historic storms and flooding this past March were devastating to the Pajaro community. These levees need to be upgraded now, urgently, and this allows us to perform critical work on a much faster timeline,” Speaker Rivas said. “The extraordinary efforts of emergency response workers, community-based organizations and residents in Pajaro earlier this year saved lives and avoided a worst-case scenario. We might not be as fortunate next time. So, it is vital that we expedite the Pajaro Levee upgrades to protect residents as quickly as possible.”

Speaker Rivas, who represents the Pajaro and Salinas Valleys, amended Assembly Bill 876 to fast-track the completion of the upgrades and provide 100-year flood protection to communities along the river. Since the original construction of the levee system in 1949, Pajaro has experienced several major floods, including in the 1990s that killed multiple people and caused over $100 million in damage. The community currently receives an eight year level of flood protection, among the lowest in the state.

“In 2022, we worked hard to secure levee modernization funding to protect the community of Pajaro. Unfortunately our extreme climate spoke before the project started,” said State Sen. John Laird of Santa Cruz. “I strongly support expediting repairs and enhancements to flood protection to ensure Pajaro can both recover as quickly as possible, and be protected from future catastrophes in this new age of unpredictable weather.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is ready to begin construction on the levee upgrades next year. But without AB 876, the current timeline for state approvals would push back the start of construction to 2025, at the earliest, and extend the duration of the project by years.

“The catastrophic March levee break and flooding in Pajaro, and the emotional and economic devastation suffered by the people there, will never be forgotten,” said Assemblymember Dawn Addis of Morro Bay. “AB 876 is a thoughtful and urgent response, enabling us to quickly repair the Pajao levee system. I’m proud to stand with Speaker Rivas to right the wrongs of historic government indifference and to prevent this type of tragedy from happening again.”

This latest action comes on the heels of Governor Gavin Newsom’s recent executive order to expedite emergency repairs before next winter’s storms, as well as the provision of $20 million in state funds to help rebuild the community of Pajaro.

“Residents of Pajaro deserve the peace of mind and security of a safer levee system for their community,” said Senator Anna Caballero of Merced. “Although the Legislature was successful and secured funds for levee repairs, the repairs were unable to be completed before catastrophe hit. That is why it is critical to speed-up flood control upgrades and to get the job done quickly to ensure that our families and residents are safe and protected from disaster.”

“We need to put the community of Pajaro first and we need to deliver on our promises to support and help. This project can’t wait any longer,” Speaker Rivas said.

Find more information on Assembly Bill 876.