How is work on the Pajaro River Levee Reconstruction project going?
Good. County staff has worked diligently on ensuring both the river’s short-term maintenance and long-term dependability. By this October, we at the county are hoping to begin a bench excavation of the Pajaro River, also known as a dredging, which will remove sediment build-up that has formed along portions of the river’s path and will ensure more widely distributed flow capacity. This bench excavation will remove 32,000 cubic yards of sediment while minimally affecting vegetation in the river. Paperwork permitting, the bench excavation will improve the river’s stability greatly.
However, a bench excavation alone is not enough. In order to fully secure the river, we must embark upon a full levee reconstruction with the help of the Army Corps of Engineers, who in addition to providing manpower will be funding 75 percent of the project. The recent cost-benefit analyses performed by the Army Corps have recommended that the furthest reaches of the levee system should receive more funding than previously determined. But until we see that money, we’ll need to continue keeping a close eye on those feds.
In 2006, the Pajaro River was actually labeled as the “most endangered river” in the country by the American Rivers Organization. It is no coincidence that Watsonville, and the greater Pajaro Valley, is one of the most impoverished areas of the nation as well. The 1995 flood caused $95 million in damage. With 30 percent unemployment in the Pajaro Valley, we simply can’t afford those consequences. Fixing the Pajaro River Levee System means job creation and capital infusion for our area, lowering flood insurance fees for those persons in flood zones, and overall security in our general welfare.
In addition to guaranteeing the safety of those people who live in Watsonville and Pajaro, we will also better secure the continued prosperity of farmland as flooding of those lands will render them infertile for some time and consequently ruin the local economy, which is, of course, dependent on the agricultural industry.
For those interested, we at the Board of Supervisors and the Zone 7 Flood Board will be hosting a public hearing on June 20 at 7 p.m. in the Watsonville City Council Chambers to discuss progress on the river.
What have you done to improve opportunities for the youth in your district?
Despite the limited budget options for new programming, I have actually tried to do a number of things. I am currently working on a resolution for the county to commit to the planting of 25,000 redwood trees throughout the county and am soliciting the help of a number of agencies to help in providing donations and volunteer assistance. I hope to be able to bring in the 4H Club, Boy Scouts, and Girl Scouts but also kids on probation who need to complete community service hours, such as members from the Community Action Board’s Community Restoration Project. The latter group has already helped me plant some double cherry blossom trees at the county buildings on Freedom Boulevard in Watsonville. I think that these nature-engaging projects really help to build good positive memories in youngsters and provide a view at alternative lifestyles.
In terms of longer-term projects, I’m working to clear out a space behind the Watsonville County facilities on Freedom Boulevard for a playground and sports field so that local kids can use that space. It’s also our hope to secure an extra park site in the South County area, which will hopefully include space for soccer fields and sports-oriented activities. If we don’t want kids to join gangs and commit crimes, we really need to focus on giving them alternatives. Sports and outdoor activities are an excellent outlet for older adolescents and I really think that should be a strong focus of ours.
I’m also a member of the City of Watsonville Post-Incident Team, which reaches out to neighborhoods that have been afflicted by a serious crime. As you can imagine, there have been many deployments recently as Watsonville has experienced an unprecedented amount of shootings, stabbings, and burglaries. I take great pride in joining other community members to make others aware of the services that exist for them and to do whatever possible to soothe their fears and concerns, doing all possible to keep our youth out of trouble.
Lastly, my office is also going to be coordinating with the Sheriff’s Office, Probation, Watsonville City Police and my fellow supervisors to host a Smart on Crime forum in Watsonville to make the community aware of the many realignment issues in which prison convicts will be transferred to County Jail. We will also address the many gang crimes that have plagued our community and what we can do to better our community.