The tortuous bureaucratic path to rebuild the 14-mile-long Inner Basin pipeline just got a little straighter.
The city of Flagstaff has received a $250,000 grant from the Coconino National Forest to partially underwrite the costs of rerouting the damaged pipeline near Schultz Pass around the Kachina Peaks Wilderness area.
The city must cover the remaining $350,000.
Forest Service officials opposed initial city plans to rebuild a portion of the water line that cut through the wilderness area, preferring the city realign a section two-thirds of a mile long outside the wilderness just north of Schultz Pass Road. The pipeline pre-dates the creation of the Kachina Peaks Wilderness.
Officials were concerned the motorized and mechanized equipment, typically forbidden in wilderness areas, would cause significant environmental damage to the area.
The $250,000 grant is part of $1.4 million in federal monies to be distributed by the Forest Service for projects inside Coconino County. Almost all of the 42 projects are slated for national forest lands.
However, the grant will only pay for a portion of the estimated $600,000 price tag to move the water line, city officials concede.
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The Federal Emergency Management Agency is expected to pay for a majority of the costs associated with rebuilding the pipeline, but the federal agency only pays for replacement costs and will not pay the additional costs to have the pipeline rerouted.
City officials expect the city will tap the city's utility fund reserves to complete the work to move the pipeline.
Deputy City Manager Jim Wine said the new pipeline location along Waterline Road is a better long-term solution.
"The new alignment will give us better access for our ongoing maintenance needs and avoid disturbing the portion of the wilderness area where the pipeline currently exists," Wine said.
First constructed in 1890, the pipeline supplies 20 percent of Flagstaff's summer water from springs on the San Francisco Peaks. It is water that is clean and cheap because it's transported to Schultz Pass mostly by gravity rather than generators.
The pipeline was broken by flood debris in at least 17 places, and it is located on a road that's now impassable in 28 areas. Completion of the repairs is not expected until sometime next year.
Joe Ferguson can be reached at 556-2253 or email@example.com.