Newsom tours flood-ravaged Monterey County, promises funding for help

On a muddy, closed stretch of Salinas Road in Pajaro, looking to the west provides a view of what was a farm field. But as of Wednesday, it’s the latest Mother Nature-made lake in Monterey County.

"Looking back the last few years in this state…it’s been fire to ice. And no warm bath in between," said Gov. Gavin Newsom, (D) California.

Around midday, Newsom was joined by other officials on the banks of the floodwaters and promised change is coming.

"You wanna get to my why, why I ran for this damn office was striking out against injustice and standing up for ideals…one of my responsibilities is to be here for people that are underserved and underrepresented," said Newsom.

A levee breach along the Pajaro River on March 11 flooded the town of Pajaro, forcing the evacuation of 2,000 residents.

"People who are the salt of the earth. But the people who have the most to lose here. They have so little but have lost so much," said Luis Alejo, chairman of the Monterey County Board of Supervisors.

FOX 2 cameras were on the scene when the same levee failed in 1995, also causing extensive flooding and damage. 

Elected leaders from the county and state said a temporary fix for the levee after the recent breach is finished.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Monterey County flooding: progress made along Pajaro River

"What we do need is to really make a commitment, that when all the rains are gone, and all the news [stations] have left, we need that follow through. To make sure we do the work that is needed on the levee," said Alejo.

Repairs and better weather have led the floodwaters to recede. Officials said there’s a 5-to-7-year timeline for a permanent fix. Newsom and others have said they are working with the federal government to accelerate that work.

"We have a plan in place now with funding to really deal with this levee," said Glen Church, the District 2 representative on the Monterey County Board of Supervisors. 

"We have to move with speed. And we have to move more deliberatively and in a much more collaborative spirit with the federal government," said Newsom.

Federal emergency relief funds are now available for families and farmworkers impacted by the flooding. 

But with more storms coming next week, and for the rest of the rainy season, there are questions if all the promises and all the help will be able to hold back the next wave of destruction.

Jesse Gary is a reporter based in the station's South Bay bureau. Follow him on Twitter, @JesseKTVU and Instagram, @jessegontv