By Julie Wiessner
Because of work done on the feasibility study for flood risk management on the Winslow levee, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Los Angeles District, has been designated the USACE South Pacific Division’s Planning Team of the Year.
Criteria for obtaining this award was developed by Maj. Gen. Michael J. Walsh, the corps’ deputy commanding general for Civil and Emergency Operations, and includes specific, measureable, attainable, risk informed and timely, or SMART, planning.
This award requires that all feasibility studies be completed in less than three years, cost no more than $3 million and be coordinated among three layers of vertical team integration, including district, division, and corps headquarters, sometimes referred to as the 3x3x3 Rule.
According to Navajo County District Flood Control Director Trent Larson, “This is not an award the county is receiving, it is an award the USACE team has earned for their work in the Navajo County area, given by the Army Corps of Engineers. The county wanted its residents to know that work is being done, although it takes a long time for a well-rounded study to be completed.”
This same group is also in the running for the South Pacific Division’s Outstanding Planning Achievement Award for fiscal year 2012.
The team members have already completed a significant amount of work for the study, including a hydrology report, hydraulic analysis, aerial photography, topographical mapping and several other studies.
The final version of the study, including a proposed flood mitigation plan, will be completed in September 2014.
When the levee was initially decertified in 2008 by the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA), it affected those located within the new flood plain area, two-thirds of whom were mostly low, fixed-income residents, who were then required to purchase flood insurance for their property.
Until 2012, when the new 3x3x3 Rule was issued, the total project amount for the Winslow flood plain area was estimated at $5.7 million. With the 3x3x3 Rule, only funds spent since 2012 are assessed under the rule. The funds are a 50/50 cost-share match for the county and the federal government through the corps, and since 2012 each has spent $1.3 million, which does not include third party or in-kind contributions.
The flood plain or levee area stretches approximately 7.2 miles along the outskirts of the city, and protects approximately two-thirds of the community from potential flooding. When FEMA decertified the levee, 2,700 parcels of land were added to the flood plain, which included 1,500 structures. This was a big project and was the reason for Navajo County partnering with the Corps of Engineers.
In June 2008, then Congressman Rick Renzi obtained $81,000 in federal funding for the project, but former Navajo County Flood Control Deputy Director Homero Vela explained at the time that $500,000 was needed in order for the work on Winslow levee to continue. The corps utilized the initial $81,000 as seed money to develop a project management plan that outlined the work required to complete a feasibility study. At that time the study was to take three to four years to complete at an estimated cost of nearly $5.7 million.
Former U.S. Senator Jon Kyl also earmarked $250,000 on the Water and Energy Appropriations Bill in August 2008 to help go forward with the corps study.
Even with the economic downturn, the levee project remained a priority, with federal funds of $229,000 in 2009, $224,000 in 2010 and $499,000 in 2011. In total, prior to 2012, the county and the corps each paid approximately $1 million toward the project.
In a 2011 meeting in Winslow, Colonel Mark Toy, Los Angeles District commander of the Corps of Engineers, explained the reason for fund continuation was because of the 50/50 cost share agreement. Toy said, “I have spoken to much larger cities and you out class them all. You have shown by collecting taxes and pushing ahead that this is a priority. We need to continue this momentum.”
With the recent flood zone change using FEMA guidelines, some of the work of the county and the corps is beginning to pay off for Winslow residents, with 900 properties being moved out of the flood zone.
Before the rezoning, it was reported that Winslow residents had paid around $11.2 million for flood insurance per year since the decertification.
By Julie Wiessner