Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis Surveys Storm Damage and Meets with Impacted Community Members in Pajaro


Thursday, March 30, 2023 (916) 445-8994

Pajaro – Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis met with Monterey County District 2 Supervisor Glenn Church, CAL FIRE, agricultural industry representatives, and community members yesterday to tour affected storm areas in Pajaro, located in Monterey County. While in Pajaro, Lieutenant Governor Kounalakis made stops at local berry farms flooded by the recent Pajaro River levee breach. They ended with a caravan tour of the affected area, where thousands of acres of farmland and homes were destroyed.  

Pajaro was among the hardest-hit parts by storms that hit California earlier this March when an atmospheric river drenched the area with rain, breaching the 74-year-old levee and flooding the town. More than 2,000 people were evacuated, and many community members lost not only their homes but their livelihoods. California has experienced more than a dozen atmospheric rivers in just the past three months, and response efforts have engaged nearly every facet of state and local government. On Tuesday, Governor Newsom expanded the request for a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration to include Monterey County. 

“I urge the Biden-Harris Administration to swiftly approve Governor Newsom’s request for a Presidential Emergency Declaration, which will mobilize federal assistance to support storm response and recovery efforts in Monterey County,” said Lieutenant Governor Kounalakis. “Pajaro desperately needs federal and state support as they work to recover from this month’s devastating flood. Low-income communities like Pajaro are often overlooked and disproportionately suffer the impacts of climate change and natural disasters. It’s our duty to step up and help this community recover all that they have lost.” 

Image of Lt. Governor meeting with Agricultural Industry Representatives

Image of storm damage in Pajaro

Image of Lt. Governor and Monterey County Superior Glenn Church touring storm damages in Pajaro

“Lieutenant Governor Kounalakis’ visit is a critical step in rebuilding Pajaro,” said Monterey County Supervisor Glenn Church. “The flooding devastation suffered by residents and local agriculture now have an important voice advocating on their behalf.” 

An estimated 30-50% of acres of agricultural land in the area was destroyed, displacing residents, putting hundreds out of work, and destroying crops. Monterey County produces more than a quarter of the nation’s strawberries as well as a number of other berries, leafy greens, and other vegetables. During the tour, Lieutenant Governor Kounalakis stopped at Healthy Harvest, a local farm and shipping facility severely damaged during California’s winter storms. 

“The storm had a huge impact on our family business and the livelihood of our employees,” said Adrian Gonzalez, Farm Manager at Healthy Harvest Berries. “We are in desperate need of financial assistance and resources to help repair our farmlands and get the community of Pajaro back on its feet.” 

Image of Lt. Governor meeting with owners of Healthy Harvest

Image of Lt. Governor and CAL FIRE in Pajaro

The Presidential Major Disaster Declaration request by Governor Newsom on Tuesday encompasses the communities impacted by flooding, snow, mudslides, avalanches, and debris flows resulting from storms beginning in February. To date, the state has invested more than $60 million in direct response and recovery action to support communities impacted by the winter storms. Earlier this week, Senators Padilla, Feinstein, Congressmember Lofgren, and Panetta called on the Army Corps of Engineers to Provide Emergency Assistance for Pajaro.