Hamway: Paradise Valley floodwater management is shared responsibility

On September 8, 2014, the Town of Paradise Valley experienced a 1000-year storm event.

Mary Hamway

Mary Hamway

To put this in perspective, to reach the magnitude of the 1000-year event, 3.94 inches of rain fell in 6 hours, and consequently, many of our residents experienced flooding.

One might assume that a 1000-year event means that we won’t get that much rain again any time soon.  However, future rain amounts and the chance of flooding have no relationship to past events. In fact, the September 8th storm was the third significant storm event to occur over the past two years.

Flood control experts agree that we will see storms like this again, and that communities should plan for the new reality of shorter and more intense storms.

Since it is impossible to completely safeguard against flooding, these same experts suggest that municipalities are better served by becoming more resilient through targeted flood control programs that minimize local damage, reduce the risks of flooding and help the community to recover quickly.

In a 6 to 1 vote of the FY 2015/16 budget, a majority of the Paradise Valley Town Council made storm water management a priority. Over the years, new home construction and walls have altered the historical flows of some washes.

In an effort to better understand how water flows today, the Town has been divided into six different watersheds where we plan to conduct detailed studies. Starting in this year, $500,000 has been allocated to perform two studies. Over the next three years we hope to complete all the studies, as well as develop an inventory of existing drainage facilities, identify drainage issues, and update our Drainage Master Plan.

In Paradise Valley, most washes are on private property and are not engineered, but remain natural habitats. Through community discussions and mailers, our goal is to raise awareness of the dangers of these storm events, and to highlight the responsibility of each property owner to keep washes clear of debris.

In many cases, washes run between property walls and the responsibility is shared between the two adjacent neighbors. Educating and working with our residents remains an ongoing effort.

Our town staff is also reviewing code enforcement and the institutional processes that could help reduce the risk of flooding in the future.  For example, we are evaluating retention for hillside homes, and we are considering changing when a certificate of occupancy is issued by waiting until after the final landscaping and drainage inspection.

We also intend to keep specific site plans as permanent records so that engineered drainage solutions are not lost as homes change owners or are remodeled. An automated warning system called Code Red has been implemented where residents can receive notification of significant storm events.

We are updating our technology to include a GIS (Geographic Information System) and a database for managing code enforcement citations. And, we continue to work with other local governments to share costs and find new solutions.

Storm water management remains a shared responsibility between the town and its residents.  Only by working together, gathering data and implementing meaningful solutions can we ever hope to be a resilient community.  For more information about storm water management, please visit our website at www.paradisevalleyaz.gov.

Mrs. Hamway is a member of Paradise Valley Town Council

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