Flood studies completed, recommendations to be delivered at county work session

Ten years ago, Ames Acres was underwater due to a break in the levee that was supposed to protect the area. In the time that has passed, the Navajo County Department of Public Works has been busy conducting studies to keep the waters from covering Ames Acres again.

Tom Hieb, Deputy Director of the department, said now that the two studies, a flood hazard study and a sediment study, are nearly complete they plan to address the Navajo County Board of Supervisors with recommendations at a work session scheduled for April 21.

The two studies have made several recommendations on different ways the county can go about fixing the levee, including: raising the levee, doing channelization, clearing the tamarisk, looking at relocating part of the river, and looking at buying the most flood prone land.

Hieb said the work session would put a price tag on each of these recommendations and help the county decided which steps they want to take. He explained some of these suggestions not only have a cost to consider, but also have a feasibility factor.

After the 1993 flood occurred, the county began looking for ways to keep the flood from occurring again.

During the process of conducting the flood hazard study, the county learned the levee would not hold a 100-year flood, which Hieb explained was exceeding a discharge of 64,000 square feet per second.

He estimated the 1993 flood averaged between 57,000 and 75,000 sq. ft. per second. He pointed out during 2001, the biggest flow the river saw was 15,000 sq. ft.

Upon discovering the levee would not hold another 100-year flood, the county issued letters encouraging residents in the flood plane to purchase flood insurance.

Supervisor J.R. DeSpain of District 3 said the decision about how to fix the levee depends on the amount of money it will cost. He explained the money used for the entire county’s flood prevention comes from the flood control district and, after operating costs, is estimated at $500,000 per year.

Hieb added 15 gauges to monitor the river’s flow have been put up throughout the county, so that if the river flooded again, a couple of hours warning would be available. Winslow gauge is fixed to the I-40 bridge. The county also has added 30 rain gauges to their inventory.

He added the county has also improved the maintenance program within the public works department. They have been spraying the tamarisk with mixed results and have also been inspecting the levee for burrowing animals that could weaken the barrier.

It was pointed out by Hieb the county has done improvements to the levee since the flood, including repairing a 1,500 foot section with Rock Rip-Rap, which is used to stop erosion.

He said the county decided to not go any farther with improvements due to the uncertainty of what was the best solution for the problems. He feels the recommendations made on the 21st will be a solid solution the county can pursue.

DeSpain said once the recommendations have been made the budget process in complete, he hopes to bring this before the people of Winslow in a public forum situation.

Watch the Mail for updates from the work session scheduled for April 21.

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