Swollen river threatens Santa Cruz Boardwalk


Heavy equipment is being used to build a berm to redirect the rain-swollen San Lorenzo River away from the boardwalk. Work continued for hours on Thursday to manipulate the water flow and reduce the impact on the boardwalk.

The river's meandering ways are creating quite a scare. Instead of flowing straight out to the ocean, the water flow took a sharp right crashing alongside the iconic boardwalk. "I'm only 40, but guys I was talking to around here that are 65, 70 say that's the first time they've seen it come that close and erode that much off the boardwalk seawall right there," said surfer Adam Repogle.

The only casualty so far has been a set of wooden stairs that used to drop down from the boardwalk to the beach below. "I learned to swim right here at the mouth of the river. I was surprised today when I saw that some of the steps had washed away, the ones that I used as a little girl to come down here and swim," resident Linda Nidick said.

To prevent any more damage, crews with heavy equipment have been at work since Wednesday. The first mission was to build a protective wall of sand. If the river made it past the concrete retaining wall, it threatened the support structure under the boardwalk. "So far, so good," said Santa Cruz Boardwalk spokesman Marq Lipton. "It was important we took the action we did with that berm, and that prevented serious problems from developing."

The second plan of action involves redirecting the river, clearing the way for the water to follow a less destructive path. That maneuver was accomplished by mid-afternoon. "So, you can actually see that it's already dry. This little cut has dropped the level a lot," resident Ed Martinez said. "So, it looks like they've done it pretty well.

For now, danger to the boardwalk has subsided, but the operation on the beach has become a popular spectator sport. "Everyone I know has said, 'Oh, I'm going down to see where the river is now. It's fun, in a way," one man said.

However, there are some people concerned that the manmade victory achieved Thursday could be eroded by Friday if more heavy rain falls.

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