BOS Hears Report on Pinal Fire EWP Project
Even as the Pinal Fire was still burning, Globe-Miami residents expressed concerns about post-fire flooding. Gila County staff at the Pinal Fire community meetings heard these concerns and began to formulate a multi-faceted response, including securing $300,000 dollars of federal funds to hire local contractors to clean out the waterways downstream of the burn. As control of the incident shifted from the Forest Service to Gila County, the County immediately began to look at flood mitigation solutions.
“We didn’t want to look back and think about what we could have done,” says Gila County Manager James Menlove. “I’m proud of staff for aggressively pursuing this funding from the Natural Resource Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Emergency Watershed Protection Program (EWP) to help keep residents and their properties as safe as possible.”
The Pinal Fire, which started as a lightning strike on May 8, created high severity burn scars in the watersheds upstream of Russell Gulch, Kellner Canyon, Ice House Canyon, and Sixshooter Canyon in Globe-Miami. Gila County’s Emergency Manager Carl Melford, likens these areas to the surface of the moon. They’re slick and don’t slow down and absorb water as much as healthy forest. These burn scars, along with the debris from the fire, spell an increased risk of potentially dangerous flooding for residents downstream.
Gila County took the lead on applying for the EWP funding, submitting the initial request on June 14. “The state NRCS staff were just fantastic to work with,” says Menlove. EWP funding has also been used in Arizona in Camp Verde and Flagstaff in recent years on similar projects. Partnering with the City of Globe at this point helped expand the scope of the project, ensuring that the waterways were clean throughout the Globe-Miami area. “We’re really proud of how the pieces came together on this project,” says Globe Mayor Al Gameros. “This was a great partnership that helped keep residents safe.”
As soon as the funding request was submitted, it was all hands on deck. Because one of the stipulations of the funding is that the project must be completed within 10 days of when the funding was awarded, County staff worked to complete all preparations for the project before knowing if it would be funded. Staff went door-to-door obtaining permission from residents to work on their property, met with contractors, held a public meeting, performed outreach, provided sandbags, and more. Once funding was awarded, work began July 6. Gila County Public Works provided construction project management, overseeing the work, which was completed in roughly a week. Altogether, approximately 267 tons, or 540,000 pounds of green waste debris was removed from the four washes.
“From the slow start of monsoon season to the overwhelming cooperation from property owners and a great partnership with the City of Globe, we’re grateful for all the moving parts that came together to make this possible,” says Menlove. “We’re just thrilled we were able to get this done for the community and at the same time bring these dollars back to Gila County contractors and residents.”
Gila County Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) Project Highlights:
- Work completed in roughly a week by six local contractors.
- Gila County helped cooperating property owners clear small-diameter and dead and down vegetation from their washes.
- $300,000 total grant - $225,000 federal taxpayer dollars returned to Gila County (25% local match).
- Cooperation with 202 private property owners, City of Globe, Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), and Tonto Forest, Globe Ranger District.
- Approximately 267 tons of material removed.