County Uses Grant to Mitigate Floods, Passivity to the Threat

County Uses Grant to Mitigate Floods, Passivity to the Threat

Dustin Woodman, Engineering Division Manager at the Coconino County Department of Public Works, explains to ADEM Mitigation Grants Program Manager LaMar Brown how federal grant funds were used to build floodwater conveyances in the community of Timberline. Since the Schultz Fire in 2010, the area has experienced over 60 post-fire floods.

PHOENIX--Homeowners in the residential neighborhood known as Timberline, east of the City of Flagstaff, live with the constant threat of flooding. And they know it.

 

It’s not unusual to see sandbags stacked along a property line, or a Jersey barrier painted to match the house color or covered with dirt to create an embankment.

 

As prepared as people in the Schultz Flood area are for flooding, Coconino County is working with the U.S. Forest Service and other agencies to mitigate the risk.

 

Since the Schultz Flood on July, 20, 2010, the Coconino County Department of Public Works has engineered and installed a system of conveyances that will divert future floodwaters away from people and property. Some of that work was funded through the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP).

 

LaMar Brown is the Mitigation Grants Program Manager for the Arizona Division of Emergency Management (ADEM). He administers HMGP for the state, acting as a liaison between the counties and FEMA.

 

Brown recently day tripped to Flagstaff to review two Coconino County projects funded with HMGP dollars. HMGP funds are only available if the President grants a state’s request for a Major Disaster Declaration.

 

The State of Arizona received a declaration for Public Assistance in Coconino County and hazard mitigation statewide for the Schulz Flood in October 2010. The Schultz Flood was an outcome of the Schultz Fire, which burned over 15,000 acres, including Schultz Peak in Coconino National Forest, in June 2010.

 

The Schultz Fire forever changed the hydrology in the burn area, putting the Timberline neighborhood at an elevated flood risk. And not just for one monsoon season. Dustin Woodman, Engineering Division Manager at the Coconino County Department of Public Works, said the area has weathered more than 60 separate flooding events since the fire.

 

“These mitigation projects are intended to address a long-term problem and to reduce impacts to life, property and public infrastructure, as well as cut annual response costs incurred by the County and other agencies,” Woodman said.

 

Since 2010, Coconino County and its partner agencies have invested millions of grant dollars into public works projects in the Schultz Flood area. HMPG funds administered through ADEM were used to engineer a section of Upper Campbell Ditch and the Alice Drive Crossing.

 

The Alice Drive Crossing Project will redirect floodwaters into the Upper Campbell Ditch. The water then flows into the Lower Campbell Ditch before emptying into a storm drain at U.S. 89.

 

Besides construction projects, Coconino County has also used HMGP funds to print an annual Flood Preparedness and Mitigation Guide, and hold public meetings with property owners in the Schultz Flood area.

 

Community meetings were held to explain the threat, and how homeowners and the County could work together to mitigate it. Woodman said involving the residents’ in the design and construction decisions was important to getting consensus approval of the projects.

 

“We really tried to bring the whole community along with us as we learned more about the flood risk and what the County would be able to do to mitigate it,” said Woodman. “Explaining the science behind post-fire flooding and mitigation measures first makes it possible to have private conversations later about the effect of the work on their properties.”

 

Although HMGP funds can be used to finance—on a cost-share basis—mitigation projects anywhere in the state, Brown said that priority is given to projects in the impacted communities. 

 

Brown is managing grants for a total of 15 mitigation projects in the state, none of which are related to the Schulz Flood declaration, at the moment. Brown takes two to three road trips a month to different project sites to take pictures and ask questions of project managers. He’s been up to the Schulz Flood area four or five times since the County broke ground.

 

“My goal is to visit the project site before the work begins, again during the project and then after the work is finished,” explained Brown. “My job as Mitigation Grants Program Manager is to make sure everything the grantee said they were going to do is done on time and within the budget.”

 

 

For more information on Coconino County’s mitigation work in the Schulz Flood area, visit http://www.coconino.az.gov/index.aspx?NID=641.