Maricopa County flood control experts have proposed over $1 million worth of drainage improvements to seven Ahwatukee sites where serious flooding could cause more than an estimated $2.4 million in damage to homes and businesses.
But when those fixes might be made – and where the money would come from – are anybody’s guess.
The proposed improvements were outlined on Monday during a presentation to the Ahwatukee Foothills Village Planning Committee by Valerie Swick, project manager for the county Flood Control District, who has been heading up a $1.2 million, two-year study.
Swick stressed that most of Ahwatukee was protected from a large flooding threat.
Nonetheless, the study determined that more than 492 homes and buildings in Ahwatukee would sustain damage exceeding $5 million in a 100-year flood.
The term “100-year flood” refers to an extreme event that has a likely recurrence interval of a century. Put another way, such a major flood has a 1 percent chance of happening in any given year.
Hydrologists make that determination on the basis of data for annual rainfall and flooding over an extended period of time.
The seven sites discussed Monday comprise the most troublesome of a total of 36 spots in Ahwatukee that were identified in the study.
For the most part, Swick said, the improvements involved widening channels, expanding culverts and regrading areas so that water flow could be directed away from spilling onto streets and property.
Those areas, the number of buildings threatened and the estimated potential damage include:
Cottonwood Lane and 41st Street, where a flood could potentially damage 52 homes and cause an estimated $681,300 in damages, according to the study.
Dry Creek Road and 35th Place, 48 homes, and $620,000 worth of damage.
Ray Road and Ranch Circle West, two commercial buildings, $67,400.
Ranch Circle and 36th Street, 16 homes, $217,100.
44th and Ponca streets, 23 homes, $291,500.
Kiowa and Mandan streets, 21 homes, $182,000.
Cheyenne Drive and 51st Street, 114 homes, commercial buildings, office buildings and apartments, $328,000.
At several points during the presentation, committee Chairman Chad Blostone noted, “There’s no funding for the solutions.”
To which Hasan Mushtar, flood plain manager for the city of Phoenix, replied, “The city might be able to do one or two.”
But Mushtar and Blostone also noted that some of the improvements involved culverts and channels on private land.
In many cases, those owners’ primary responsibility is maintenance. For example, they must ensure that channels are free of debris so water can flow and not back up, creating floods.
That prompted committee member Michael Hinz to ask if county or city officials notified private property owners of problems.
Swick and Mushtar indicated there was no formal process for notifying property owners, although homeowner association boards in some cases have been contacted.
“The city does not go out and hand out letters,” Mushtar added, stressing that no one will be notified as a result of the study itself.
He said that once projects are proposed, officials would seek permission to work on any private land.
Hinz pressed the issue of a formal notification process that included records of contact with owners and their responses.
“How would we know who to hold accountable in the absence of a formal document?” Hinz asked.
Mushtar said that owners generally would be contacted once projects were approved and a work schedule was set.
About a dozen Lakes residents showed up for the meeting, and some of them said the barren defunct golf course posed a consistent flooding threat.
But Mushtar said the city had not received any complaints of flooding from residents in the area.
“The grass was dying when the study began,” he said, adding that there was no indication of serious flooding in the area.
Blostone and Mushtar said that it was important that residents file a flooding report with the city, since that is the only way officials become aware of a problem.
The study groups flooding concerns into three categories: 21 areas where a total 496 structures – mostly single-family homes but including a church, some businesses, two office buildings and at least three apartment complexes – could sustain damages; 15 stretches of local streets and roads that are prone to a damaging flood; and three erosion hazards.
The Flood Control District of Maricopa County was created in 1959 to reduce the risk of flooding to people and property.
The district has no timetable for completing plans to deal with the endangered areas, let alone a schedule for when the county and city could find the money to implement those plans, Swick told AFN last fall.
“There is usually some kind of solution for the flooding problem, but sometimes there are other factors such as funding that may cause us not to build a project,” she explained.
Moreover, she added, “Because most of the problems are independent, there is no need to have them built all at the same time. We prioritize the projects and work them into the budget over many years.”
Swick said that her team is developing “conceptual solutions for all the areas,” but that “the design and construction of these projects will need to go through the capital improvement prioritization process for both the city and the district.”
Because that funding program prioritizes projects involving all cities in the county, solutions for the Ahwatukee flooding concerns would have to be weighed against those in other communities.
Many times, funding depends on the federal government.
For example, the city had asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency last year for a $500,000 grant to address a persistent flooding problem on Manden Street. The agency turned down the request.