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  • Flood Control project brings stormwater basin to neighborhood

    The midtown Palo Verde neighborhood has for years battled the ravages of stormwater every time a substantial rain blows through. Now, the Pima County Regional Flood Control District is working to address the flooding issues the neighborhood regularly experiences. 

    The District has nearly completed construction of a stormwater retention basin that will help reduce localized flooding on Dodge Boulevard near Seneca Street. The basin will also provide a pocket park for the neighborhood that includes native vegetation, a walking trail and park benches. 
    Seneca Basin
    “The intent is to take a bite out of the water flows coming down Seneca and onto Dodge,” Deirdre Brosnihan, Pima County Regional Flood Control District civil engineering manager, said. 

    Richard Elías, Pima County Board of Supervisors Chairman and Supervisor for Dist. 5, said the project creates a needed public amenity as well as addressing a long-standing issue. 

    “We were able to ease storm-flow problems in the Palo Verde Neighborhood and create a small park for its residents’ enjoyment at the same time,” Elías said. “The park, appropriately, will have many Palo Verde trees.”

    Brosnihan shared that neighbors have reported frequent rain-caused flooding, ponding and property damage. Addressing these problems has been a challenge for the District because the neighborhood has long since been built out, leaving engineers with limited options for large scale improvements. 

    Working to address the issues, however, Pima County acquired the 1.67-acre property at the southeast corner of Dodge Boulevard and Hampton Street in late 2018. The site previously was home to an auto repair shop, among other businesses, over the decades. Several sheds and Quonset huts stood on the property. 

    Pima County acquired the property through a Treasurer’s deed after the Real Property Division of Public Works Administration identified its availability.

    Under state law, when delinquent taxes remain unpaid for five years or more, real property can be conveyed to the State of Arizona through a Treasurer’s deed. That was the case with this parcel, as the owners had not paid property taxes on it for many years. 

    After the parcel was conveyed to the state, the County had the option to either auction the property or retain it for use by the Department of Transportation or the Flood Control District. The District had for many years sought properties in the Christmas Wash watershed, where the property lies, for flood mitigation, and determined that the parcel would be suitable as a retention basin and park amenity. 

    Prior to that, however, the property required mitigation efforts to remove asbestos from the buildings and contaminants from soil to facilitate the redevelopment. 

    Residents of the Palo Verde neighborhood were eager to see alternative uses for the Dodge property, which had additional issues beyond flooding. 
    Forklift depositing bench
    “It was a troubled parcel,” said Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik, who represents the area. 

    Kozachik said neighbors expressed concern to him about crime occurring at the site and intermittent instances of squatters taking up on the property. Now, with the pocket park in place and the advantage of flood mitigation, the councilman said neighbors are pleased with the changes. 

    Brosnihan said the District worked with the Pima County Native Plant Nursery to grow out the nearly 500 new trees, bushes, saguaros and night-blooming queen of the night cactus for the project. 

    “This also provides additional green space to an older urban neighborhood which they so often do not have,” Brosnihan said. 

    The District plans a similar project south of the Dodge property on Richey Boulevard, where a deeper detention basin is in the planning stages that will gather stormwater and serve the neighborhood as a pocket park and open space. The second basin also lies within the Christmas Wash Watershed and will alleviate similar issues neighbors in that area have experienced. 

    Because Palo Verde is a long-established neighborhood and was built prior to implementation of modern development standards, the options for flood mitigation were limited without significant impact to the neighborhood. 

    In a less built up area the most effective solution to flooding issues of this scale would be to construct a largescale detention/retention basin.  However, a project of that size might require the acquisition of an entire city block, which would be extremely disruptive to an established neighborhood. For that reason, the District is looking to address the Christmas Wash flooding issues with a series of smaller drainage solutions. 

    The flooding issues in the Christmas Wash watershed are severe and these two basins only provide a small contribution to solving them. The Flood Control District is looking for other areas in the watershed to make drainage improvements, with an eye toward providing additional neighborhood benefits, just like these basins do.

    For Kozachik, these projects not only provided needed fixes for neighborhoods, but stand as examples of how the County and City can cooperate for the benefit of the community. 

    “I give the County high marks for this,” he said. 

    Contractors working with the County recently completed the final installation of park benches in the newly revitalized Dodge property.  The park will be officially open for public use early February.  
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