BISBEE — Colonia Bay Acres north of Douglas has needed protection from flooding for years, and though it could cost more than $7 million to protect it from a 25-year flood, the county’s Floodplain District is looking into funding to turn the plan into a reality.
Jackie Watkins, director of the Flood Control District department and county engineer, provided the Cochise County Board of Supervisors with an overview of the multi-million dollar project, which does not include the cost of buying land, in a work session April 20.
Watkins explained to Supervisors Ann English, Peggy Judd and Tom Crosby it would be less expensive to construct a ditch around the development to the Palm Grove wash than to build a berm, which costs more to maintain. Since Bay Acres is a colonia, an unincorporated low-income area along the border with Mexico, it opens up more potential avenues for funding.
Watkins said, “It’s still a lot of money.”
It was just one of a number of projects the Floodplain Department has on the drawing board.
A subdivision in a flood zone off Leslie Canyon Road created a lake in 1969, before any restrictions were in place, with a berm to hold the water, Watkins said. However, the height of the berm actually makes it a regulatory dam and that requires a different tactic to hold back flood waters.
In addition, the berm has failed in two spots and requires work in order to protect county roads, Watkins said.
The plan is take over the lake and build a proper dam to prevent flooding, Watkins said.
In Huachuca City, a 12-foot-deep wash is filled with vegetation, debris and vehicles, which Watkins said is sometimes called “Detroit bank protection.” Homes are built in an area of the flood zone near the Babocomari River and Watkins wants to tackle the clean out to prevent erosion and provide flood protection for the homes built before there were regulations.
The cleanup of county ditches will begin with two major drainage channels in the Yaqui Street area which have not been cleaned for three or four years, said Watkins. Willcox has a few as well as Douglas. The department has set aside $150,000 for the cleanup in the 2021-22 fiscal year budget.
Watkins also wants to update the county’s floodplain regulations, which has not been done since 2015. She is working with the Community Development department to require all homes be built at a one-foot elevation. She noted regular homeowners’ insurance does not reimburse for flood damage.
“Just because you’re not in a floodplain doesn’t mean you won’t get flooded,” Watkins said. “Twenty–four percent of all flooding events happen outside of a flood plain area. That will protect the community as a whole.”