Mar 272015

By Tammy Gray

A $66.2 million plan to rehabilitate the Winslow Levee received formal approval from the Navajo County Board of Supervisors Tuesday.

“Under this plan we will not rehabilitate the last two miles of the levee,” Assistant County Manager Homero Vela noted.

The plan was selected both for its benefit-to-cost ratio and because it will provide protection along the most essential portions of the levee. The two-mile stretch excluded from the plan stretches from approximately North Park Drive to the end of the levee.

A total of six plans were presented to the board, ranging in cost from $19.1 million to $93.7 million. Of the three plans that provided the most protection, which involves rebuilding major portions of the levee, the plan chosen is the least expensive, but reportedly offers the most return for the money spent. Vela noted that in order to have a better chance of receiving federal approval and funding, the project should have a benefit-to-cost ratio of at least two, and the selected plan is the only one that meets that criteria, coming in at 2.75.

Selection of a plan allows work to move forward in design and engineering. Vela explained that the cost estimates are still rough at this point since there is not a complete design, but the county can expect to contribute about 35 percent of the cost, for about $2.5 million in design costs and $20.6 million in construction costs. Federal funds will cover the remaining 65 percent of design and construction costs.

Vela explained that the county has been saving for more than a decade for this project, but still does not have the entire amount available. He told the board that, with their permission, he will be asking the City of Winslow to contribute $10 million to construction costs.

“We’d like to ask Winslow to share in the construction costs 50-50, since it is a benefit to their town,” he said.

The board gave its approval to seek contributions from the City of Winslow.

Board members also approved an adjustment in county fund allocations. Approximately $300,000 in estimated in-kind work will be converted to a cash contribution and an additional $100,336 will be added to the levee funds to make up for an increase in the cost of the feasibility study.

According to Vela, the feasibility study is nearing completion, but is not yet finished. He also noted that construction work is several years away.

“So far we’ve been working on this for nine years, and that’s the rate at which we’ve been able to get federal dollars,” he explained.

A report on the feasibility study is due to be submitted to Congress in June 2016. Design work on the selected plan is also expected to start in early 2016 and should take two to four years. Vela noted that although the process is slow, it is vital for Winslow homeowners.

“Their flood insurance premiums are going up and some people just can’t afford it,” he said. “It’s a very high rate and it impacts their ability to maintain their home.”