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  • Supervisors adopt improved flood management plan for Ruthrauff Basin area

    Oct 03, 2017 | Read More News
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    File: Rillito Wash with waterThe Pima County Board of Supervisors today approved a new vision for one of Metro Tucson’s more flood-prone areas and began the process to remove over $40 million worth of property from federal insurance requirements. Supervisors, acting in their capacity as the Flood Control District’s Board of Directors, voted unanimously to adopt the Ruthrauff Basin Management Study, conceived as a tool to help ensure public safety, protect the environment and guide redevelopment in a roughly eight-square-mile area southeast of the confluence of the Santa Cruz and Rillito rivers.

    The Study, developed in collaboration with the City of Tucson, the Flowing Wells Neighborhood Association and Community Coalition (FWNACC) and numerous businesses and residents used state of the art two-dimensional flood flow modeling with high quality topographic data as well as community input to prepare new and more accurate local regulatory and FEMA floodplain maps.

    The area currently suffers from chronic sheet flooding problems, largely due to development prior to the advent of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) when little attention was paid to providing adequate drainage as the area transformed from agricultural to urban and industrial development.

    “The really innovative part of the study was the use of a grid-based flood modeling,” Flood Control Assistant Director Eric Shepp said. “That gave us a far more precise understanding of the drainage problems there and let us identify additional needs and find the best ways to mitigate them. It also gives everyone involved a common set of facts to work from and serve as a resource for the County and Tucson on future transportation and economic development efforts.”

    This more precise flood model already paid dividends for the Arizona Department of Transportation, which used it to evaluate drainage for the Interstate 10/Ruthrauff Road Transportation Interchange project, which is expected to cut construction costs by millions of dollars. A major priority moving forward will be addressing the lack of infrastructure at the Union Pacific Railroad Track which now acts as a levy, preventing floodwaters from reaching drainage improvements under the Interstate to the Santa Cruz River. 

    “Flooding doesn’t respect city limits or neighborhood boundaries. Water generated in one jurisdiction impacts the other, which made a collaborative approach essential,” County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said. “Resolving the chronic drainage problems will help make Flowing Wells more attractive for redevelopment and opens the possibility of creating an Infill Incentives District to kickstart that process.”

    The City and County anticipate that this action will result in increased redevelopment opportunities in this area.  As part of the project, the District identified a series of drainage-related infill incentives to reduce flooding during re-development. However, Capital Improvement Projects identified for the area remain conceptual at this point. Funding sources would be identified when projects are considered viable and appropriate.

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