After years of fighting for federal table scraps, the city’s Rio De Flag flood control project was fully funded by the United States Army Corps of Engineers this week.
The Corps included $52 million to fund the project in its fiscal year 2020 civil works plan.
In a statement, Flagstaff Mayor Coral Evans said the funding provided by the Army Corps means the real work can get underway.
“The hard work now begins, putting shovels in the ground and completing the project. I’m excited that completion of this project will protect the city from the effects of a catastrophic flood, and excited by the potential economic development that will follow,” Evans said.
The project is designed to mitigate the effects of a 100-year storm causing a large flood in the Rio de Flag and has been over two decades in the making. It is comprised of water drainage, diversion and detention facilities, including a system of channels and a flood wall that will range up to 8 feet tall.
Such an event, which has a 1% chance of happening every year, could impact more than 1,500 homes and businesses in the area of downtown, the Southside neighborhood and Northern Arizona University, and is estimated to cause close to $1 billion of damage to the city.
According to city officials, the Corps of Engineers anticipates work on each of three phases of the project will take two years. The city has said 108 properties will be affected, including houses, commercial, multifamily, municipal and railroad properties.
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The $52 million allocated by the Army Corps joins local dollars raised by the Flagstaff City Council to fund the project. In 2018, the council approved $33 million in bonds to pay for the city’s share of the flood control project and paid for by use of the stormwater fee.
And just last year, the council reiterated its support for the project after some members of the public had pushed for the city to go it alone.
City Engineer Rick Barrett said it is now up to the city to acquire any property needed for the project, work with local providers to relocate utilities that will be in the project's way and wait for the 100% design plans to be finished, all before September 30.
Barrett said staff have been working hard to get all that done, but up until now, they couldn't be sure it would pay off. That's no longer a question now that the Army Corps has allocated funding.
And even if there are delays, Barrett said now that the money has been allocated, the project can't lose that money.
In 2018, Lieutenant General Todd Semonite, the Chief of the Corps, visited Flagstaff and toured the site of the flood control project with Evans and some members of the city council. During that visit, Semonite told city officials he wanted to see the project funded and underway by the end of his command of the Army Corps.
Evans also thanked Semonite and other Army Corps officials for pushing the project to the top of the priority list, as well as the politicians who supported the project.
Congressmen Greg Stanton and Paul Gosar and Congresswoman Anne Kirkpatrick all lobbied the Army Corps on behalf of the city’s flood control efforts.
“I want to thank all of our Arizona congressional delegation who signed a letter of support for this project, especially Congressman Tom O’Halleran, and Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Martha McSally for their unwavering support and commitment to this project,” Evans said.
Adrian Skabelund can be reached at the office at firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone at (928) 556-2261 or on Twitter @AdrianSkabelund.