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Pajaro River levee gets emergency repairs

Emergency repairs made to the Pajaro...

WATSONVILLE, Calif. - UPDATED 1/11/2017 6:00 PM:

Crews are doing emergency repairs on the Pajaro River levee outside of Watsonville in Santa Cruz County. While the levee did not breach, public works crews saw something else concerning – boils. 

"It's like boiling water,” said Jason Hoppin, Santa Cruz County public information officer. “So there will be standing water on the dry side of the levee from rain and if you inspect it, as we were doing because of the recent weather, it'll look like there's something coming up from the bottom like a bubble and that's a sign that something's coming through from the other side and that's something we want to be concerned about."

On Wednesday, crews from Santa Cruz County, Granite Rock, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the California Department of Water Resources took action. With a convoy of dump trucks carrying boulders, crews laid down sheathing, then dumped rocks on top of it to fortify the levee. Inaction could cause a flooding threat in the future.

“This is a lot of water for the river,” Hoppin said. “This is the most it's been in the channel since 1998 so that was one of the areas of concern and probably what's leading to this issue but we expect it to go down steadily from here and everything will be ok."

A breach is something neither the county nor the city of Watsonville can’t afford. However, one levee within city limits has had issues and overtopped in one area.

"The Salsipuedes Creek had some damage,” said Michelle Templeton, assistant director of Watsonville’s Public Works and Utilities. “We had to bring in some boulders and big heavy equipment to clean up those spots and refill them, patch them up so that the levee maintained its integrity."

Don Bowie has only lived in the neighborhood for a couple of years. He knows it has a history of flooding, so he prepared himself by getting sandbags.

"I've heard about it from my neighbors and stuff,” Bowie said. “Apparently one of the last times it flooded, it came up to my driveway.


Crews are doing emergency repairs along the Pajaro River levee west of Watsonville in Santa Cruz County. During weather patrols this week, crews noticed small "boils" that could indicate seepage from the river channel.

Today, county crews, along with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the California Department of Water Resources and Granite Rock are dumping 5,000 cubic feet of soil to shore up the levee.

While the levee did not breach, county officials say doing nothing could pose a flooding threat in the future.

KION's Mariana Hicks will have more on this story tonight.

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