Find the latest breaking news and information on the top stories, science, business, entertainment, politics, and more.

As California Flood Waters Rise, So Does the Risk of More Levee Failures

Good morning and welcome to Essential California Newsletter. Is Wednesday, March 15.

On Friday night, as another month-long parade of atmospheric rivers swept across northern and central California, a levee meant to hold back the rising waters of the Pajaro River broke and flooded the small town of Pajaro.

Hundreds of residents were forced to leave their homes. A second breach in the levee was reported Monday. It is working for cover the gaps as another storm system looms over the region, with even more rain expected next week.

The river is the dividing line between Santa Cruz County to the north and Monterey County to the south, and the town of Pájaro lies on the south side of the river.

The vast majority of Pájaro residents identify as Hispanic or Latino, according to the latest US Census datawhich also shows that almost a fifth of people live in poverty.

As my colleagues Susanne Rust and Ian James reported this week, the devastation at Pájaro was not an inevitable act of nature, but the result of what happens when inadequate and aging flood controls are neglected and not repaired.

“For decades, the federal government ignored the levee, which never reached the status of a project worthy of repair, despite repeated pleas, violations, flooding, and even two deaths,” they wrote.

Those deaths occurred in 1995 in a flood that caused an estimated $95 million in damage to the community.

“Sometimes we feel abandoned,” Pajaro resident Karla Loreto told Times reporters this week. “Since I moved here, I always heard about the 1995 floods and this opinion that this part of the city is so bad and extremely poor.”

Monterey County Supervisor Luis Alejo has He asked the state to help for Pájaro’s undocumented residents, many of them farmworkers, saying they won’t qualify for federal aid.

“These are our friends, our neighbours, these are people we really care about and we know they are going to go through tremendous hardship in the coming months,” he told The Times.

Water management experts told Rust and James that “similar weaknesses” are affecting levees throughout the Golden State and in other parts of the US.

A 2011 statewide study of the Northern California levee system listed more than half of the levees as “high hazard,” meaning they were at elevated risk of failure due to flooding or earthquakes. In the years since that study, California’s megadrought has further weakened levees by drying out the soil around them, an engineering expert told reporters.

“As climate change threatens to intensify and exacerbate extreme weather events, including floods and even droughts, the concern and despair of residents and first responders in communities near these ruined systems is growing,” they wrote.

And the risks extend to southern California, a policy expert explained.

Jeffrey Mount, senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California, pointed to “a long legacy of very poor flood management and land use options” throughout the Los Angeles basin, where the potential for major flooding is increasing.

“That is a high-risk equation because eventually a flood will come and the economic costs will be immense,” he told The Times.

An independent water advocate and researcher said what happened to Pájaro residents indicates a system of neglect in the way the government prioritizes its most vulnerable communities.

“You look at where to invest money to protect lives,” he told Rust and Jame. “And we’re not going to do that.”

You can read his full story here.

And now, This is what is happening in California:

Note: Some of the sites we link to may limit the number of stories you can access without subscribing.


With rampant drug use, overdose deaths on the rise, and crime on the rise in the LA Metro system, more riders are leaving the public transportation system. Since January, 22 people have died on the agency’s buses and trains, most from suspected overdoses. Times reporter Rachel Uranga hopped on the system and wrote about the conditions, which one train operator called “horrifying.” Los Angeles Times

LA had P-22 (RIP); UCLA had Powell Cat (RIP). The stray, named for the Powell Library, died last week after years hanging around campus. Some students are calling for a memorial statue to honor the beloved feline, who became an unofficial campus mascot. Los Angeles Times

Check out “The Times” podcast for essential news and more

These days, waking up to current events can be, well, daunting. If you’re looking for a more balanced news diet, “The Times” podcast is for you. Gustavo Arellano, along with a diverse group of reporters from the award-winning LA Times newsroom, delivers the hottest stories from the Los Angeles Times every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. listen and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.


Three weeks after blizzard conditions trapped residents in San Bernardino’s mountain communities, some are still stranded and waiting for help. And when state officials reopened roads to the public over the weekend, residents expressed concern and anger. Los Angeles Times

California has a new wage transparency law, but that doesn’t mean every employer or worker understands how it works. Here’s a guide to the new rules and how to find out if your business is compliant. CalMatters

California’s student housing crisis is deepening. Recent surveys by the University of California, California State University, and California Community Colleges show that approximately 417,000 students lack home security in all three systems. At the same time, efforts to build more housing are threatened by rising construction costs, disputes between residents, and other obstacles. Los Angeles Times


California tribes continue to deal with a high rate of missing and murdered Indian women. The decades-long crisis, as Times reporter Hannah Wiley writes, “can be traced back to white settler colonialism, a broken foster care system, and the forced assimilation of native children in the state’s punitive boarding schools.” Los Angeles Times

Uber, Doordash and other gig economy giants scored a big victory this week when a state appeals court upheld most of Proposition 22., overturning a previous court’s decision to invalidate it. The 2021 ballot measure was defended by rideshare and delivery companies in response to a 2019 state law that required many temporary workers to be classified as employees rather than independent contractors. Los Angeles Times

The operators of a luxury Westside care facility for older residents with Alzheimer’s and dementia are facing multiple charges in the COVID deaths of 13 residents and one employee. Silverado Beverly Place failed to follow health protocols, prosecutors say, leading to an outbreak at the facility in March 2020. Los Angeles Times

free games online

Get our free daily crossword, sudoku, word search and arcade games in our new game center at WhatsNewDay.com/games.


from today california landmark is from Gregory Kubelek of Santa Rosa: the “visually and historically significant” palisades mountains in Napa County.

Marcia Kreutzmann and Abigail the dog look out over The Palisades in Napa County in 2005.

(Courtesy of Gregory Kubelek)

Gregory writes:

The cliffs look like an old fortress from the valley below. The district was the site of several mercury mines in the 19th century. Robert Louis Stevenson spent two months in these mountains in 1880 and wrote about it in “The Silverado Squatters.”

What are California’s essential landmarks? Fill out this form to send us your photos of a special place in California — natural or man-made. Tell us why it’s interesting and what makes it a symbol of life in the Golden State. Be sure to only include photos taken directly by you. Your presentation may appear in a future issue of the newsletter.

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments to essentialcalifornia@WhatsNewDay.com.