Navajo-Hopi Nations,Flagstaff & Winslow News
Wed, Feb. 26

County emergency declared after levee breaks twice<br>

The Navajo County Board of Supervisors and Gov. Janet Napolitano declared an emergency state Jan. 4, after the Winslow Levee failed for the second time in less than one week.

Napolitano signed an amendment to the Dec. 29, 2004 declaration of emergency to include Gila and Navajo Counties. The amendment authorizes Gila and Navajo to receive funding for personnel, local government infrastructure repairs and other approved expenses. The state has released $200,000 from the State Emergency Fund to be split among Coconino, Yavapai, Gila and Navajo Counties.

Judy Kioski, spokesperson for the Arizona Division of Emergency Management, said damage assessments in Navajo County would begin this week after another predicted wave of storms had passed through.

“We started to conduct preliminary damage assessments,” she said. “The first took place last Thursday (Dec. 30) in Coconino County. At the time Navajo County hadn’t declared. Now we have to set up a time for a team to conduct the damage assessment (in Navajo County). The sooner the better, but they have to wait until the storms run thought so they can get an accurate look at the damage.”

The Winslow levee will be at the top of the team’s list.

Residents along the Little Colorado River watershed are susceptible to flooding during the week as storms are predicted to dump precipitation in the area through Wednesday.

The Winslow levee failed for the first time on New Year’s Eve causing residents in Leupp and Bird Springs to be evacuated.

Floods also damaged the waterline at Homolovi Ruins State Park forcing the campgrounds to close.

Park Manager Karen Berggren said floodwaters did not damage any of the important sites and the park has a storage tank for drinking water.

“It means we’ll have to haul water until we get it fixed,” she said.

Berggren said the park is open to campers willing to dry camp, but there is no water for showers, toilets or for filling up personal storage tanks. Campers should call 928-289-4106 for current updates on what is available.

County report

At around 10 a.m. on Dec. 31, the levee had a piping failure, causing water to seep from the river. Deputy Director of Flood Control Tom Hieb told the supervisors Monday, Jan. 3, they did not know what caused the failure.

County Supervisors approved up to $100,000 from the Navajo County Flood Control District contingency fund, for repairs for the first failure.

Hieb noted that the reason for the failure could not be determined, but that it had been controlled, and a temporary patch had been applied.

“We’ve put approximately $50,000 into the repair so far,” Hieb said. “We are asking for up to $75,000 from the flood control district contingency fund to pay for repairs.”

District I Supervisor Percy Deal asked if that would be enough, since the National Weather Service was predicting more moisture. “I think it should be up to $100,000,” he said.

Hieb said that would be acceptable, since the district has the funds in contingency to cover it.

The supervisors approved spending up to $100,000 for repairs and any other miscellaneous costs to repair the Winslow Levee. Also on the agenda Jan. 4 was a letter to the governor requesting assistance to help with costs involved with levee repairs.

Hieb explained that it is unknown when the levee was started, but it was around the 1950s. In 1960, the county became involved.

Each year from 1968 through 1972, and then again in 1978 and 1979, flooding occurred at the levee. From 1971-1979, the county spent $600,000 on building or repairing the levee.

In 1976, a study of the Winslow Levee found it did not follow any master plan, so after the 1978 flood, the first engineer was hired to work on the levee.

In 1979, the Arizona Water Commission was commissioned to help with construction, and construction began in 1986. It was completed in 1989 at a total cost of $5 million.

In 1993, the levee once again flooded. At that time, the county made temporary repairs to the levee.

In 2000, a study on river sediment and how it affected the flooding was conducted. Later that year, Delph Engineering was hired to determine the capability of the levee and to redeliniate it.

Hieb noted that the hydraulic analysis and flood hazard assessment found that the levee does not meet the 100-year flood protection requirements of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

He explained that the flood maps will be submitted to FEMA, and that the flood insurance rate maps will be revised. He added that the department would be sending letters to property owners notifying them of the change and a public meeting would be scheduled to answer any questions.

“We are requesting that you approve hiring an expert consultant and authorize the formation of an advisory committee to look at ways to repair the levee,” Hieb explained.

The board approved hiring a consultant for an amount not to exceed $500,000 and agreed to consider forming an advisory committee.

The Holbrook Tribune contributed to this story.

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