Storm runoff causing big problems for roads across Valley

Posted at 8:04 PM, Mar 02, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-02 22:04:42-05

Water coursing through the Salt River has overflowed five Valley roads and washed out at least one.

In mid-February, SRP started releasing water from its reservoirs swelling with winter storm runoff from the mountains.  The Granite Reef Dam is now spilling 20,000 cubic feet of water every second.  

SRP said as of Thursday, Horseshoe and Bartlett Lakes are 93 percent and 96 percent full respectively.  Roosevelt Lake is at 61 percent capacity which was up two percent in the past 24 hours with outside chance of filling up for the first time since 2010.

"Last year was the sixth consecutive year of below medium runoff into our system.  [That] never happened before in over 150 years of record keeping.  Good news is, that streak is going to end this year,” said Jeff Lane, SRP spokesperson.

Lane said the last time there was a release of this size was in 2010.

The result for downriver infrastructure has been the same in both instances: flooded and washed out roads.

Maricopa County said water is washing over five roads that run through the normally dry Salt River bed. McKellips Road, El Mirage Road, 67th Avenue and 91st Avenue are all flooded and closed.  Gilbert Road at the Loop 202 Red Mountain has been washed out completely.  

The same thing happened with Gilbert road during the 2010 release, costing the county $2.7 million dollars according to Ron Coleman with the Maricopa County Department of Roads. And yet, they said the system is working exactly as designed even without bridges that would eliminate washouts.

“So, it’s a question of how many repairs and how often,” said Coleman.  

Gilbert road is actually scheduled to get a new bridge over the river in about four years.   The bridge is projected to cost $20 million dollars.  That means on average it’s cheaper to fix the washed out road every five years over the span of 35 years rather than build a bridge.

Coleman said Gilbert road has the kind of traffic that justifies the expense, but the other four roads don’t.  Plus, they’re actually designed to have water flowing over them and that means fewer repairs at a lower cost - making a bridge even less economical.

"Our crews go in and inspect it after it happens, clean the debris, and then open the roadway.”