Eastwood donation, BSLT plan promise flood and
water shortage relief
Published: June 7, 2013
THE DANGER of flooding to
homes and businesses along the north side of the Carmel River,
and of an economic disaster for the entire Monterey Peninsula
from the looming state-imposed water cutback, will be alleviated
by a project spearheaded by the Big Sur Land Trust which hinges
on a major donation from former Carmel Mayor Clint Eastwood.
Eastwood said this week he’ll give more than 80 acres of the
old Odello artichoke fields on the east side of Highway 1 to the
Big Sur Land Trust so they can be used to channel flood waters
safely to the Pacific Ocean. And a big portion of the potable
water that’s been historically used on the property for
agriculture will be made available to Cal Am and private
property owners in Carmel and Carmel Valley, Eastwood said.
“I’ve lived here full-time since the 1960s, and I always
enjoyed looking at the fields and the open space on this
property, and I just want to keep it the same,” Eastwood told
The Pine Cone during a tour of the property Tuesday.
At one time approved for more than 80 houses, the highly scenic
land lies between Palo Corona Ranch and the Carmel River. In
1995, Eastwood and his former wife, Maggie, bought it from the
Odello family, which had farmed the land for years and obtained
development approvals from Monterey County in the 1960s. Two
years later, the Eastwoods donated about 50 acres where the
subdivision had been approved to the land trust. And now,
Eastwood wants to give it the rest.
“I bought it to keep the houses from being built,” Eastwood
said. “And now the goal is to give the rest to the Big Sur Land
Trust, and they’ll keep it out of development.”
More than 190 acre-feet of water has been used every year on
the land for grazing and row crops, he added. Of that, 60 will
stay on the property so the BSLT can keep some of the land
either in farming or grazing. Another 45 acre-feet will be no
longer be pumped, so it can stay in the river. And the rest —
about 85 acre-feet — will be contracted to Cal Am to supplement
the Monterey Peninsula’s legal supply during the looming crunch,
and then made available to private property owners who need it
for additions to homes, infill development and business
Approval from the State Water Resources Control Board will be
needed for the water deal before the transfer of the land to the
BSLT can be completed, said Alan Williams, a longtime Eastwood
“We already have licensing of the water, and now we’ll be able
to ask for permission to move some of it,” Williams said.
Local officials welcomed the prospect of an enhancement of the
local water supply — however small — pending completion of a new
water supply project for the Monterey Peninsula, especially
since that new water project, whatever form it takes, still has
a long way to go before it’s approved, much less built.
“Having more water for lots of record, having more water to
enable restaurants to add a few seats, to allow people to add a
bathroom if they want, to be able to have an apartment upstairs
in the commercial core ... there are all sorts of wonderful
things this community would love to have, and we’re being held
back because of a lack of water,” said Carmel Mayor Jason
Burnett. He said the Carmel City Council would be doing its “due
diligence” to determine how best to use some of Eastwood’s
water, if it becomes available.
Getting the water, Burnett said, would “put the decision-making
power over land uses back where it belongs, in the hands of the
elected representatives of the people of Carmel.”
“Desal and all that are all good, but maybe nothing’s going to
get built in our lifetime,” Eastwood said. “Eighty-five
acre-feet can do a lot of good.”
But even more enthusiastic support for the land trust’s flood
control project is coming from business owners and residents
along the river — especially those who remember the floods
during the 1990s.
“The single most important step for protecting the Mission
Fields and Crossroads areas from future flooding is to allow
more flood water to flow south of the river, instead of flooding
the developed north bank,” said Larry Levine, who chairs a
county advisory committee on flood prevention in Carmel Valley.
“The county has to get on the stick and get this done,” said
Margaret Robbins, who lives near the river, and whose home
nearly flooded in 1995 and 1998. “The Crossroads shopping center
has 50 stores that need protection, Arroyo Carmel and Riverwood
have almost 200 units that need protection, and Mission Fields
has almost 300 units.”
She said $14 million in grant money is available to get the
work done, but a big chunk of that is going to expire at the end
of the summer unless action is taken.
At a meeting of the Monterey County Board of Supervisors
capital improvement projects subcommittee Monday, it was agreed
that the county should be the lead agency for the flood-control
work, and the board itself will probably agree, according to 5th
District Supervisor Dave Potter.
“The floods in 1998 were devastating,” Potter said. “This is a
great, great project.”
Opening up the land Eastwood plans to donate is one part of the
work anticipated by the Big Sur Land Trust, which has secured
the $14 million funding, according to executive director Bill
Leahy. More will be needed, however.
“We are working with Monterey County to identify the remaining
funding needed, secure the funding and a set a time frame to
break ground,” Leahy said.
Lots to do
Why will the work be so costly?
Eastwood has already moved, at his own expense, a huge amount
of fill and debris that was dumped on the Odello property in the
1930s during construction of a hotel in downtown Monterey. The
fill, known as “the blister,” impeded the flow of floodwaters
across the Odello land. Eastwood also notched the levee along
the south side of the river to direct some high water onto his
The latest project involves removing a one-half mile section of
the levee, which would open the floodgates from the river to the
undeveloped land immediately to the south. It also calls for
removal of the berm that carries Highway 1 across the
Odello/Eastwood land, replacing it with a causeway so water can
flow freely on its way to the ocean. And the BSLT plans to
create a network of trails connecting the north side of the
river to the land Eastwood is donating, and then to Palo Corona
Ranch and beyond.
“We are frustrated at the slow progress in actually getting any
work started, but we are also appreciative of all the agencies,
organizations and funders who are so supporting of the project,”
“Besides making some water available, the project would also
have huge environmental benefits for the community and for the
river,” Burnett said. “It’s going to be a win-win-win.”
“The land trust is working with the Eastwoods on structuring
the project to allow us to move forward,” Leahy said.
“Permitting has not yet begun.”