Feb 252011

By Tammy Gray-Searles —

Work on the Winslow levee will move forward in fiscal year 2011, even if a request for federal funds is denied.

The Navajo County Board of Supervisors approved the expenditure of $204,000 on the project Tuesday, noting that at this time it is the maximum amount that can be spent until the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers receives additional funding for the work.

Floodplain Administrator Trent Larson explained, “Funding for this project is based upon a 50 percent federal and 50 percent Navajo County cost share agreement. To date, Navajo County has contributed $250,000 in cash and the federal share has been $454,000. What this means is that the corps can accept an additional $204,000 from Navajo County to use for continuing work on the feasibility study without reaching a cost lock.”

He previously explained that because of the cost share provision, county contributions cannot exceed the amount contributed by the corps.

The approved funds will pay for hydraulic and economic modeling, which are part of a feasibility study that must be completed before work on the levee can be completed. According to Larson, once the modeling is complete, it will represent a major milestone. He previously explained that he is hopeful that once the work reaches a certain point, it will make it easier for the corps to obtain funding.

“Our ultimate goal is to get into their regular budget. The problem in the past has been that we’re not in their regular budget,” Larson had said.

The $204,000 has already been included in the county’s budget. Navajo County also has additional funds set aside for the work.

Larson told the board that a request was made for a federal earmark for the project, which would allow the corps to complete even more work, but chances of approval are slim.

“Although Congresswoman Kirkpatrick sponsored a $500,000 earmark for FY11, this earmark is unlikely to be authorized given the current political climate of Congress,” he said.

He explained to the board that without the county contribution, the project would be at a standstill until the corps is awarded additional funding.

The total estimated cost of the Winslow levee feasibility study is $5.7 million. According to Larson, the study is currently about half complete.

“The USACE has thus far completed the hydrology, the cultural resource and the geotech reports,” he said.

Larson met with corps officials in December to learn what options were available to keep the work moving forward. He advised the board that there are several options, but they depend on what action Congress takes in allowing the corps discretion regarding which projects are funded. He noted that, “this project is currently ranked at the highest level of priority for a study that the L.A. District can give it.”

The supervisors unanimously approved the $204,000 expenditure.