There's no quick fix for Coconino County's flooding problem

By Michel Marizco
Published: Tuesday, September 20, 2022 - 1:56pm
Updated: Wednesday, September 21, 2022 - 10:17am

Water quickly overwhelmed small culverts
Michel Marizco/KJZZ
Water quickly overwhelmed small culverts in Flagstaff that are only designed for normal rainfall, not flood surges.

Coconino County residents were told Tuesday morning that they face millions of dollars in repairs to stop future flooding after this year’s heavy monsoon season. 

The county’s flood control district administrator told county officials the costs to stop future flooding will be more than $140 million. Lucinda Andreani said the repairs won’t be ready by next year.

"We would all love to have everything mitigated by the next monsoon season. That is not possible," she told supervisors during the meeting Tuesday.

Engineers are using heavy equipment to repair hundreds of acres of burned alluvial fans on the Coconino National forest. The fans act as natural water breaks, slowing down the water as it comes down off the slopes. The 26,000 acre Pipeline Fire that erupted here in June burned away those protections. Allen Haden, an ecologist with Natural Channel Design Incorporated, described the arduous repair process. 

"We basically have to find material, fill in the gullies that have formed through the alluvial fan and re-form the alluvial fan surface so that it can spread flows out," Haden said.

The county has already requested funds from the U.S. government but a consultant Bob Holmes said that money won’t be available until at least December if not next year.

"In the meantime, we’re looking for potential funds through Forest Service and Department of Transportation to fund some of these projects that can be done on forest or off forest and along the roads right now," Holmes said.

The threat of flooding continues to persist in northern Arizona. The National Weather Service has warned of new flooding threats this week north of the Mogollon Rim.

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