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California Parks Saw $210M in Damage from Historic Wet Winter

Record-breaking rainfall in January and March caused extensive damage to California's coastal parks, according to a report submitted to FEMA seeking federal aid.

Don Lawson, with Granite Construction company, watches as excavators tear down the pier at Seacliff State Beach in Aptos, Calif., on Monday, March 27, 2023.
Shae Hammond/TNS
(TNS) — LOS ANGELES — California's historic wet winter inflicted at least $210 million in damage to the state's parks during storms in January and March, with a popular state beach near Santa Cruz accounting for nearly half of that damage, according to a state report submitted to federal officials.

The damage estimate was included in a report submitted by the California Department of Parks and Recreation to the Federal Emergency Management Agency as part of the state's efforts to get federal aid to make repairs to the parks.

Of the state's 280 parks, 85 were listed in the report, which estimated the damage from January storms alone was $187 million. Another storm event in March resulted in at least $23 million in damage, but that estimate is expected to rise.

Among the storm-damaged parks, 15 had estimates of more than $1 million in damage each, with the highest numbers concentrated on the central coast.

Seacliff State Beach, near Santa Cruz, suffered more than $100 million in damage after storms battered its pier in January, according to the report.

In addition to destroying the pier, January storms "destroyed nearly all of the seawall and much of the fill material on which the campground was built," state parks wrote in February. "Much of the underground utilities were lost to the sea, as was the parking lot pavement."

California endured 31 atmospheric river storms this winter, one of the wettest and coldest in recorded history. Storms killed people, stranded others and damaged infrastructure.

Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument in San Luis Obispo County saw more than $19 million in damage, and Santa Barbara County's El Capitan State Beach had nearly $12 million.

At Hearst Castle, rain caused flooding and downed power lines, leading the monument to close in mid-January, according to The San Luis Obispo Tribune. At El Capitan, storms damaged waterlines, some of which still await repair, according to the state parks' website.

"State Parks has already completed some of the repairs," said Jorge Moreno, a spokesman for California State Parks, including "debris cleanup, emergency repairs or protecting structures."

"The department is taking a phase approach on projects that require long-term repairs with some work potentially taking up to five years," he said.

It is unclear when FEMA will respond to the state's report, and what funding might be allocated for park repairs.

The list of January damages will be updated as the parks department continues to assess and repair, according to Moreno.

"FEMA has not yet closed the event and additional counties are still being declared," Moreno said, adding that a similarly detailed list of damaged parks will become available once the event is closed.

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