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Background and Timeline

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Over the years, the Pajaro River has had a long and storied history of flooding and flood control projects. Since 1966, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has conducted planning with the City of Watsonville and the Counties of Monterey and Santa Cruz in an effort to provide the communities along the river with adequate flood protection. In the past 40 years, 19 flood risk management alternatives have been explored to control waters of the mainstem Pajaro River from the ocean to Murphy Crossing Road and along Salsipuedes and Corralitos Creeks, which drain into the Pajaro River in the City of Watsonville.

The alternatives considered over the years fall into six main categories:

  • Ring levees
  • Bypass channels
  • Rebuilding or increasing the height of levees in place
  • Floodwalls built on top of existing levees
  • Retention to upper basin reservoirs
  • Setback levees and increase in levee height
  • No project



Outreach meetings present 8 focused array of altnernatives, including 4 for the main stem of the Pajaro River and 4 for the tributary areas.


USACE holds stakeholder meetings and re-initiates Pajaro Flood Protection Project


GRR Report and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) released for public review


Draft GRR revised to include Locally Requested Alternatives


Draft General Reevaluation Report (GRR) with reformulated alternatives completed. Local sponsors cannot support the USACE ring levee alternative.


Alternative reformulation planning activities (focus on Ring Levees 9D/T3) increase with secured federal and local funding 


Design Agreement executed between USACE and Local Sponsors
Non-Federal contributions ($$) to USACE begins


Local sponsors initiate PED for Bench Excavation
Alternative reformulation slows due to lack of funding available for planning
IRWMP Grant ($6 million) for GRR, Public Outreach, and Bench Excavation


Local sponsors - select NED as LPP (2A/T4)
USACE conducts Alternative Formulation Briefing (F4a)
HQ USACE issues formal recommendation to expand formulation and analysis of alternative projects


USACE formulates tentatively-recommended NED plan (2A/T4); and presents to stakeholders


Loose local consensus to support Pajaro River Project Alternative 2A (100' setback) and Corralitas/Salsipuedes Creeks Alternative T4 (Variable 100' setback levee and levee rebuild)


Congress member Sam Farr's initiation of Public Stakeholder Meeting process begins

2000: USACE completes General Reevaluation Report (GRR) F3 Report: no-project/baseline conditions


Pajaro River mainstem is combined with Salsipuedes/Corralitos
Creek project under federal authorization
USACE completes Preliminary GRR for Salsipuedes/Corralitos Creek (70-Year NED Plan)


February Flood along Pajaro River followed by USACE Emergency levee repairs


Flooding occurs along Corralitos Creek

Formation of Zone 1A - Monterey County Water Resources Agency to generate additional maintenance revenue for the Pajaro River Project
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1995 Pajaro flood and flood victim center
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Major flood event breaches Pajaro River levees; flooding occurs at less than the design capacity


USACE Reconnaissance Study finds positive benefit/cost ratio for a Salsipuedes/Corralitos levee project


USACE Emergency levee repairs - Salsipuedes Creek


Formation of Zone 7 - Santa Cruz County Flood Control and Water Conservation District to generate maintenance and partial local matching funds for the USACE levee reconstruction project


Magnitude 7.1 Loma Prieta earthquake causes significant levee damage
USACE Emergency levee repairs


Flooding occurs along the Salsipuedes and Corralitos Creeks
USACE Emergency levee repairs along Salsipuedes Creek
Project cost share re-affirmed at 75% : 25%


Local community declines to support any identified project alternative


Federal Flood Control Act authorizes new project


USACE report identifies design deficiency


April Flood - Pajaro River
USACE Emergency levee repairs


USACE Emergency levee repairs
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1955 Flood 
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1955 Sandbagging


First major flood event to breach levees


Levee system construction is completed along
the Pajaro River (11.5 miles) and Salsipuedes Creek (3 miles)

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1937 flood
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Federal Flood Control Act authorizes flood control