Lessons from Pajaro: How to Better Support Vulnerable Communities as Climate Change Intensifies

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Signs block off the stretch of Murphy Road that crosses the Pajaro River in Watsonville, California on March 19, 2023. Last weekend, a nearby river levee breached sending water flooding through the Pajaro River Valley. (Kori Suzuki / KQED News)

During last week’s atmospheric river storm, a levee broke on the Pajaro River, turning the town of Pajaro - inhabited mostly by Latino farmworkers - into a lake. As the LA Times reported, officials knew for decades that the levee was unstable, but delayed fixing it because of “benefit-cost ratios.” We’ll talk with community representatives and water management experts about what Pajaro residents are facing now, and how decisions are made that determine which communities are protected. As climate change brings more extreme weather events and flooding, we discuss what changes need to be made to protect vulnerable communities through the coming decades.

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Luis Alejo, Monterey County Supervisor

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director, Restore the Delta

Mark Strudley, executive director, Pajaro Regional Flood Management Agency