(A loader operator lifts a heavy load of boulders beside the Salsipuedes Creek levee during a major repair of area levees. Photo by Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian)
WATSONVILLE — Crews began rolling heavy equipment along the Pajaro River levee system recently to repair damage caused by the winter storms of 2017.
Resident Engineer Jere Harper of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said the $6.4 million project will repair 17 sites along the Salsipuedes Creek and Pajaro River levee systems, in an area bordered by Highway 152, Murphy's Crossing and Highway 1.
A number of places along the channel have experienced land sliding due to the heavy rains that struck the region in early 2017. Crews are currently excavating the loose soil, and filling the holes with large rocks.
"That's the goal, to build these earthwork structures so they perform as designed," Harper said.
He added that the plan is to complete the work in October, before the next winter storm hits.
"We are aggressively moving forward, because winter is coming," Harper said.
Levee paths in the work zone will be temporarily closed to allow crews to repair the damage.
The repair work is separate from the overall Pajaro River levee project, a years-in-the-making plan that is expected to provide a 100-year level of protection for both Watsonville and Pajaro.
The plan would, among other things, construct 7.3 miles of new levees along the lower Pajaro River as well as five miles of levees on Salsipuedes and Corralitos creeks.
The tentative plan, drafted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, was released in late October and allowed for a month-long public comment period.
Tom Kendall, chief of planning for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers San Francisco District, said that additional funding to make final revisions to the plan was recently provided by federal and county governments. The plan is expected to be finished by the end of the year.