Regarding the article on property tax assessment proposed for residents in the Pajaro River’s flood plain (GT, 3/30): Believe it or not, water runs downhill. Pajaro’s watershed problems have their origins upstream in Santa Clara County and San Benito County. Rampant land development has greatly reduced permeable surface area and resulted in greatly increased stormwater runoff.
Under California law, if water flow exists in its natural state, the owner of the property at the higher elevation has the right for that water to flow from their property onto all properties having lower elevations pursuant to the natural flow. That is, so long as water is flowing off the higher property at the natural flow (i.e., the speed, frequency, intensity and path of the water has not been changed from its natural condition). The land development occurring in the upstream areas has greatly increased the flow of stormwater in the Pajaro River and impacts the people residing there, and legally it is the responsibility of the public officials in the two upstream counties to pay to fix the problem.
The cost of the levee improvements and ongoing maintenance and repairs should be assessed against the developed properties in Santa Clara and San Benito counties and not the downstream victims in the Pajaro community. It was wrong for a representative of Monterey County to propose otherwise.
Bruce Stenman | Elkhorn
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