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Flagstaff residents ask leaders to address flood concerns with 'focus and urgency'

Sand Bags in Flagstaff
Posted at 4:53 PM, Aug 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-11 21:18:14-04

FLAGSTAFF, AZ — In an open letter directed to city officials in Flagstaff, neighbors ask leaders to address flash flooding concerns with ‘focus and urgency.’

People who live along Stevanna Way in Flagstaff have seen five flash floods within 15 days, and they’re asking for assistance with the culvert system in the area.

“The West side has now joined the east side in facing the gruesome reality of rapid environmental changes, poor planning, under-performing infrastructure, and their ensuing havoc,” the letter signed by more than a dozen neighbors reads.

RELATED: Flagstaff City Council plans to ask voters for bond measure for infrastructure projects

City officials tell ABC15 that they will need city engineers to evaluate the culvert systems as they look for long-term mitigation solutions.

“Watershed improvement is part of the solution,” the letter reads, “but correction of drainage flaws that repeatedly and explicitly expose citizens to a deadly and costly hazard is obviously the first step. Waiting for vulnerable areas to flood repeatedly is not innovation, it's irresponsibility.”

On Wednesday, Flagstaff officials received 250 pallets of pre-filled sandbags from the Flood Control District.

The sandbags have been placed at the Schultz Creek Trailhead along Highway 180.

Neighbors have expressed concerns about closer access to the filled bags, as they would drive to the east side of the county to pick them up in their own vehicles.

City officials say they aren’t able to place these bags in the neighborhoods because of lack of staff and resources.

The city allocated $300,000 for a private vendor from Phoenix to continue to receive pre-filled bags in the area.

ABC15 asked the city why it is paying for a private contractor for these bags since city residents pay a tax to the Flood Control District in the area.

“Frankly, we’re at capacity of what they have available, east flagstaff is taking from what our estimate is 1.2 million bags,” said Scott Overton, public works director with Flagstaff.

Overton said their sandbag stockpile has been ramped up to meet the demand in the area.

ABC15 has been reporting on how nine watersheds have burned, causing unprecedented flooding in multiple areas of the city and the county.

Overton said it’s unclear how many sandbags have been placed in the west side flood area, but estimates tens of thousands at this point.

The city has estimated that people who live along the Museum Fire burn scar will need sandbags as mitigation for up to eight years, however, it’s unclear how long sandbags will be needed in areas like Coconino Estates, Cheshire, and Stevanna Way.

“We have not done that analysis, we’re five weeks post the burn itself, as mitigation starts to be developed, we’ll be able to message that as those are delivered,” said Overton.

City officials were able to get federal funds for a detention basin that will begin mobilization next week, with construction starting on the 22nd. However, it won’t be completed until October.

The site will contain a lot of water capacity to be able to help alleviate downstream effects from Schultz Creek

Some neighbors are asking if there are mitigation measures that can be taken right now, “the true answer, and the truth in the answer is not really,” said Overton.

The director of the Flood Control District said they have provided most of the sandbags within the city for the Museum and Pipeline West flood areas.

In an email, she wrote, “The District has covered and managed the consulting engineering resources for this area and they have completed over 200 site assessments.”

Some of those are considered repeat visits though.

In total, over 20,000 sandbags were delivered by the FCD on Wednesday, “the sandbags should be placed to mitigate impacts to the homes not the entire property,” she added.