The home of Ronald Stiene and his wife Sandy, residents of Wildwood Hills Home Park off of West Route 66, is fortified against flooding.
Stiene points out where he has drilled holes in his concrete driveway and flower planters that allow him to set in place the removable wall, made of sections of a garage door, in front of their house. It’s an upgrade many of his neighbors have installed as well to mitigate the flooding that is not uncommon in the community during large storms.
Since they have moved there in 2005, Stiene said the neighborhood has experienced flooding fairly often as water flows into their low-lying community from the west, through their streets and into a wash on the other side of the community.
But a solution may finally be on the way as the City of Flagstaff works with Arizona developer Vintage Partners to build a retention pond on the eastern side of the neighboring Wanderland RV Park.
Last month, Flagstaff City Council approved an agreement with Vintage to pay them $345,000 to help fund the construction of the pond and easements to allow city staff to maintain the pond should that be needed, with Wildwood Hills providing another $60,000.
City Water Services Director Brad Hill said the goal is for the pond to capture the water created by a large storm event, releasing it over a much longer period of time so the community is not seeing all that water flooding through their streets.
At its fullest, the pond will be capable of holding nearly 3 million gallons of water; for a 100-year storm event, it could reduce flooding in Wildwood by about 60%. Such a large storm event is predicted to occur once every 100 years.
"I do want to make it clear this will not eliminate the flooding there, but it will reduce the peak flows of what that subdivision has been experiencing," Hill told the council last month.
The project comes as Vintage Partners, which owns the park, looks to redevelop it although it will remain an RV park with some tent camping spots as well.
Work on the project began between Vintage and city staff based on the council's direction in 2016 after the Wildwood Hills community saw extensive flooding.
Despite the easement the city will have to help maintain the pond, maintenance will primarily be done by Vintage, which also committed to taking measures to manage mosquitoes.
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Stiene said he attended the meeting and was glad to see the city moving to address the flooding he and his neighbors experience, but after experiencing flooding for so long, he added he was waiting to see if the measures actually worked.
“We’ll see how it works; you can’t control Mother Nature,” Stiene said.
The decision to sign the agreement with Vintage was not an easy one for many councilmembers. Primarily, that was because Vintage also plans to use the pond for recreational purposes in addition to a detention pond.
The agreement with Vintage stated the development would be able to purchase water from the city with the intention of keeping about half a million gallons of water in the pond for recreational purposes for several months throughout the year.
For Councilmember Jim McCarthy and several other councilmembers, that was an issue.
"Water conservation is a key value for this city council and for the residents of this city," McCarthy said. “We want our people to save water; when they see lakes like this, it’s counterproductive."
McCarthy suggested an amendment to the deal to disallow the park from buying water from the city in order to fill the pond.
But Crutchfield said that wouldn’t work from their end. He pointed out that although the city was paying Vintage $345,000, they were giving eight acres of land to the project valued at $800,000. And with the construction of the pond, they would no longer be able to profit from the development of the land.
Crutchfield said because of that, they need to get some benefit from the project.
“This was an attempt on our part to solve a problem. I don't think you can ask a private group or an individual, ‘hey, would you give us $800,000 worth of property? Would you invest $160,000 in the engineering to solve this and then you don't get any value out of it? We're so glad you’re here,’” Crutchfield said.