Study Area

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Watsonville Slough Ecosystem Restoration, Section 1135 (CAP)

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Project Location and Description

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, San Francisco District (USACE), in partnership with the non-federal sponsor, the Pajaro Storm Drain Maintenance District (PSDMD ) initiated this study to address ecosystem restoration opportunities in the Watsonville Slough region. This study is being conducted under the authority of Section 1135 of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 1986 (P.L. 99-662). Section 1135 studies are part of the larger Continuing Authorities Program (CAP) that allow USACE to plan, design, and restore degraded ecosystems through modification of existing USACE structures, operations, or implementation of measures in affected areas.  In 2017, the PSDMD requested a new start study for Watsonville Slough. A Federal Interest Determination (FID) was completed and signed in November of 2019 allowing the study to move to the feasibility step.

Watsonville Slough is in Santa Cruz County and at the mouth of the Pajaro River, where the Pajaro River discharges to the Pacific Ocean. The Pajaro River watershed encompasses more than 1,300 square miles and the lower reach of the Pajaro forms the boundary between Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties in California. The study area is on the inland side by farmland, while on the seaward side it is bordered immediately by the Pajaro Dunes Community and then the Pacific Ocean.

Since the 1930s, majority of the Watsonville Slough and its tributaries have been affected by activities such as agriculture and residential land use.  The USACE Federal levees constructed in 1949 along Pajaro River and Salsipuedes Creek have also affected the Watsonville Slough habitats.  This study will address lack of tidal marsh and coastal wetland habitat as well as a problem of low quality of existing tidal habitat in the study area.

Alternatives for consideration will consist of one or more measures and will include both structural and non-structural measures.  Structural measures under consideration include grading work, grubbing, earthwork, topsoil replacement, improvements to hydrologic connectivity, planting of native species, and/or removal of invasive species.  Non-structural measures include flood warning systems, relocation of structures out of the floodplain, flood insurance, and floodplain management plan.


  • Executed a Feasibility Cost Sharing Agreement
  • Project kickoff
  • Continued feasibility analysis


The project is currently in the planning phase where charettes are being held with a broad group of stakeholders and partners. Site visited have been conducted and the potential alternatives are being developed. Outreach to property owners within the project site is also occurring.


  • 20th District, Rep. Jimmy Panetta


Project Manager and Lead Planner, (415) 503-6848

Deputy for Project Management, (415) 503-6593

Updated on 26 October 2021