aspen_banner.jpg
Arizona Public Radio | Your Source for NPR News
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Coconino County says nearly $150M needed from feds for long-term flood mitigation

Flood
Ryan Heinsius/KNAU
/
Floodwaters rush down a channel along Campbell Avenue in the Timberline neighborhood northeast of Flagstaff on Wed, Aug. 17, 2022 following a heavy monsoon rain on the San Francisco Peaks. Over the summer homes and communities east of the peaks have been inundated as a result of the 26,000-acre Pipeline Fire that burned nine watersheds.

Coconino County officials are asking the federal government for nearly $150 million to perform long-term flood mitigation. They made the request Wednesday during a briefing and tour that included Arizona Congressman Tom O’Halleran and U.S. Forest Service Deputy Chief Chris French.

According to flood managers, the combined costs of on-forest watershed restoration, neighborhood flood mitigation and improvements to highway drainage could approach $145 million. It far exceeds the budgets of the county and the City of Flagstaff, and officials are hoping Congress will include it in emergency appropriations before the end of the year.

O'Halleran Flood
Ryan Heinsius/KNAU
/
Arizona Rep. Tom O'Halleran watches floodwaters rush down a channel along Campbell Avenue in the Timberline neighborhood northeast of Flagstaff on Wed, Aug. 17, 2022 following a heavy monsoon rain on the San Francisco Peaks. Rain gauges showed that the storm dropped nearly an inch-and-a-half of rain on some areas in about an hour.

"Even if we bonded, we would have to march through this probably over five to 10 years, if not longer. So the federal funds are crucial. There’s no way we’re going to get through this. Neither the city or the county or district have the resources to do that," said Lucinda Andreani, Coconino County flood control district administrator and deputy county manager for special initiatives, at a press conference Wednesday.

Andreani says this year the county has already spent between $6 million and $7 million just in short-term flood mitigation like sandbagging, installing concrete barriers and removing sediment.

Lucinda Andreani
Ryan Heinsius/KNAU
/
Lucinda Andreani, Coconino County flood control district administrator and deputy county manager for special initiatives, addresses reporters at a press conference Wed, Aug. 17, 2022 about a request for nearly $150 million from the federal government for long-term flood mitigation near the Pipeline Fire burn area.

This year’s 26,000-acre Pipeline Fire burned nine watersheds on the San Francisco Peaks causing 20 times more flooding potential than previous years in the most severely burned areas.

The Wupatki Trails and Timberline neighborhoods have seen frequent floods along with areas of west Flagstaff. It’s has forced U.S. highways 89 and 180 to close several times during at least 40 flood events since April. The National Weather Service has sent more than 150 emergency alerts.

Officials are also hoping to expedite thinning and forest restoration projects, especially on the west side of the San Francisco Peaks, they hope will prevent future destructive wildfires that could have even more catastrophic effects.

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.