Sanitary district looks to keep Tusayan dry

Grant funded floodwater retention basin environmental study to be completed by August

Photo/Pete Shearer<br>
Floodwaters run down RP Drive in Tusayan west of Highway 64 during a recent flooding event. The road is the main access to the majority of housing in Tusayan as well as to the Southern Grand Canyon Sanitary District plant.

Photo/Pete Shearer<br> Floodwaters run down RP Drive in Tusayan west of Highway 64 during a recent flooding event. The road is the main access to the majority of housing in Tusayan as well as to the Southern Grand Canyon Sanitary District plant.

TUSAYAN, Ariz. - Flooding in Tusayan is common, occurring every two or three years. But, a flood retention basin project currently underway could reduce the number of floods dramatically.

Located in a flood plane at the mouth of three flood generating drainages north and east of town, flooding has occurred every two or three years in Tusayan. South Grand Canyon Sanitary District (SGCSD) officials hope to reduce flooding to once every 25-50 years.

According to SGCSD Chairman Pete Shearer, the SGCSD was awarded $98,000 in Coconino Resource Advisory Committee (RAC) grant funding. An environmental study is currently under way along with a retention basin design study.

Total cost for the study and planning and modeling comes in at $110,565. Bob Petzoldt with the SGSCD said the town of Tusayan contributes close to $12,000 to make up the difference in necessary funds.

"They're on board with us doing this," he said.

The Kaibab Forest and Coconino County are in support of the project as well.

"By way of taking care of these flood waters in town it stops the carrying on of debris and pesticides and oil and stuff into the forest, so that is kind of the forest's foundation for taking this on," Petzoldt said. "That and being good neighbors with the community in their boundaries."Tusayan District Ranger Nick Larson said supporting local communities with health and human safety issues is always a top priority.

"It's a good project for the community to help safe up some of the investments that are out there and some of the actual infrastructure." he said. "We're pretty supportive of that."

Shearer said the proposed basins are retention basins as opposed to detention basins.

"We're just slowing the water down," he said. "It makes it down its natural course."

According to Shearer, APS has also been a supporter of the project.

"APS has transformers that go under water and that creates a life and safety issue, so, they're very happy about not having to stand in ankle deep water to reset a 12,000 volt switch," Shearer said.

The grant funding was awarded in May of 2011. Originally the study was to be completed by March 31 but Petzoldt has asked for an extension until August.

Once the Environmental Impact statement is complete, pending a second round of funding from the Secure Rural Schools and Communities Self Determination Act of 2000, excavation of the retention basins would begin.

Shearer said a cost for the project has yet to be determined. He estimated around 200 loads of dirt will be removed to create the basins. The dirt tanks will be created without banks to allow for natural overflow.

"If we build a dam, we could be damming up water," he said. "If it broke, we could be impacting the community worse."

The floodwater retention project could also benefit Grand Canyon School District's community park/sports complex. The excavated top fill could be used for preliminary earthwork pending forest approval.

"That is something that we're definitely trying to facilitate," Larson said. "We should be able to accommodate that."

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