Town accepts flood<br>solution responsibility
"We're here to take responsibility," Town Manager John Roberts assured a group of 75-100 distraught property owners at a special meeting in Middle Verde last week.
Fed up with ongoing flooding problems in the Middle Verde area, residents invited Roberts to a special meeting to discuss solutions.
Four public officials sat before the large audience at the Community Church of God on Middle Verde Road — Roberts, Town Engineer Dan McGinn, Yavapai County Flood Control Director Ken Spedding and Engineer Charlie Cave. Armed with maps, the panel offered solutions and listened to people's complaints and concerns. Mayor Barbara Miller and Councilman Eric Eberhard sat in the audience.
People living in the Middle Verde area, an area west of Interstate 17 that includes the El Rancho and Overlook Acres Subdivisions, the Yavapai-Apache Nation's Reservation and Middle Verde Road, have experienced ongoing flooding problems during heavy rainstorms this year. The flooding causes extensive damage, both structurally and to land, estimated now to be in the six figures.
One of the meeting organizers, Buford Terry, said that although insurance covers buildings, it does not necessarily pay for damages to property.
County flood engineer Charlie Cave explained why the problem has worsened. "The problem has always been here," but the rainfall of September 1999 caused significant changes and destabilizing the washes in the area.
Roberts told the group the matter is "a Town of Camp Verde issue, and we will deal with it the best way we can."
He promised immediate short-term relief, but indicated long-term solutions would be much more complicated and costly. It is unknown how much time will be involved in a long-term solution. Roberts said he estimates a $2 million to $3 million price tag for significant drainage improvements, including easements through neighborhoods to get the water down to the river. He told the audience that the town does not have a "single drainage easement" in the area.
He later said the county could provide technical assistance. Spedding said he contacted Yavapai County Supervisor Chip Davis on the matter and typically the county would split the costs on a 60-40 basis.
Besides tapping into county resources, Roberts said he believes there are other ways to pay for the necessary improvements, such as the formation of improvement districts, tapping into general funds and federal and state grants.
In the meantime, Roberts offered the audience immediate short-term solutions:
• Get permits on the existing road.
• Identify short-term grading issues that will help drainage.
• Perform a drainage study to see how the system works. He estimates the study will cost about $40,000. He will recommend the town and county each contribute one-half, or $20,000 each.
This week, Roberts said he is turning over a large map to a newly formed Middle Verde flood-control committee, a group of residents who volunteered at the meeting. The first to volunteer for the committee was local business owner John McReynolds, who lives on Northern Avenue.
Roberts is asking McReynolds and the committee to get Middle Verde residents to identify problem areas on the map so the engineers will have a better understanding of the problem areas.
McReynolds later remarked, as one woman in the audience had, "If the town would clean out the bar ditches, it would help." He said town maintenance of ditches has been non existent in the Middle Verde area.. McReynolds said the entire flooding situation is larger than what people realize; that during hard rainstorms sheets of water come down flooding property all the way from the Cliff Castle Casino to Hayfield Draw.
Many residents have maintained that a diversion dike located on U.S. Forest Service land behind Middle Verde Road near Forest Service Road 119A was either torn down or collapsed, escalating the flooding conditions. Although no one was available at the meeting from the Forest Service, Roberts assured the group that in his discussions with Forest Service officials, they were willing to work with the town in granting the necessary permits needed on forest land. It is unknown if the purported dike will be replaced.
Two weeks ago, Forest Service ranger Ken Anderson said, "The dam that was on the national forest may or may not be the best solution. We would not authorize the rebuilding of that dam without a current design that would deal with the problems."
He went on to say that they want a "fresh design" that would solve the flooding conditions.
The meeting comments, for the most part, were from concerned citizens sharing their personal and oftentimes heartbreaking stories about the loss of livestock from drowning, soil erosion, mold and mildew problems, health-related concerns, losses of fences and the lack of access because of flooded roadways.