Coconino County and nearby tribal lands are set to receive millions of dollars from the $1.7 trillion Omnibus Appropriations Bill that President Joe Biden signed just before the new year.
The legislation includes $925 million for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Emergency Watershed Program, which includes two projects within the Coconino County Flood Control District, totaling $50 million. The projects will provide flood mitigation in six neighborhoods within the Schultz/Pipeline Flood Area.
The county will need to accept these grants and will have to further allocate $12.5 million in local funds to match. The Flood Control District Board is now working to determine where those funds will come from before the end of the month.
“Right now, we’re advocating for them to release the funds as quickly as possible,” said Lucinda Andreani, Coconino County’s flood control district administrator.
“Our plans are to complete work in three of the flood corridors before the monsoon season if we can get the money in time,” she said.
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The legislation also includes $210 million for post-wildfire disaster relief funding from the U.S. Forest Service. Local leadership worked with the Coconino National Forest and the U.S. Forest Service to draft a $40 million proposal for on-forest watershed restoration in the nine watersheds impacted by last year’s Pipeline Fire.
“What we’re looking at is projects over basically the next three years,” Andreani said, due largely to the constraints of Flagstaff’s limited construction seasons between the monsoon and winter weather.
While the county is limited in what it can accomplish immediately, Andreani said she feels confident that any work they’re able to do will make a difference next summer.
“The on-forest measures, the watershed restoration measure are really a game-changer,” she said. “They really influence the level of debris and sediment that are coming into the neighborhoods but also the volume of water.”
Just months after the Pipeline Fire, a particularly wet monsoon season resulted in 45 major flood events across the city and county, causing millions of dollars in property damage. The Flood Control District spent $8.2 million in the immediate response.
Notably, last year’s flooding came as a result of recurring rain events that remained relatively small.
“So we know that the area is vulnerable to larger flood events than we actually had experienced last year,” Andreani said.
Contact northern Arizona reporter Lacey Latch at firstname.lastname@example.org or on social media @laceylatch. Coverage of northern Arizona on azcentral.com and in The Arizona Republic is funded by the nonprofit Report for America and a grant from the Vitalyst Health Foundation in association with The Arizona Republic.