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Detention basin project aims to mitigate Pipeline Fire flooding in west Flagstaff

Pipeline Flooding Wake
Ryan Heinsius/KNAU
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A sign put up by residents along Ft. Valley Road in west Flagstaff urges drivers to slow down when driving through floodwaters to reduce flooding in nearby homes. Several heavy rains over 2022's Pipeline Fire scar in recent weeks have caused massive amounts of water to rush into Coconino Estates and other west Flagstaff neighborhoods.

The City of Flagstaff has secured $2.4 million from a federal grant to begin flood mitigation work in west Flagstaff. The area has been inundated several times in recent weeks as a result of heavy rain over the Pipeline Fire scar.

Three large detention basins will be built at the intersection of Elden Lookout Road and Schultz Pass Road on a 20-acre city parcel commonly known as the Y. The tiered earthen basins will be designed to temporarily hold and gradually release water that flows down the Schultz Creek drainage and have a capacity of more than 50 acre-feet, or about 16.3 million gallons.

"So essentially instead of one giant catastrophic flood, you should see several hours of flow going through the channel. But it’s flow that the downstream system can accommodate," says City of Flagstaff stormwater manager Ed Schenk.

Most of the $3 million project’s price tag will come from a grant through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Emergency Watershed Protection Program, and the city will provide about $800,000 in matching funds. Work is slated to begin soon and officials say it should be completed this fall.

Schenk says the area at the Y will remain open to recreation after construction of the basins and trails will be restored along with native grasses and trees.

City officials plan more extensive flood mitigation on Coconino National Forest land that will likely take several years to complete.

Several heavy monsoon storms over the Pipeline Fire burn area on the San Francisco Peaks have flooded streets in west Flagstaff this summer along with areas on the east side in the Doney Park and Timberline neighborhoods.

Ryan joined KNAU's newsroom in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a frequent contributor to NPR.