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Posted on: May 15, 2018

NAU study: Post-wildfire flooding to cost hundreds of millions

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Williams and surrounding areas face severe economic impacts


The Coconino County Board of Supervisors heard a presentation from the Northern Arizona University (NAU) Alliance Bank Economic Policy Institute (EPI) on the economic impact of post wildfire flooding to the City of Williams resulting from a wildfire on Bill Williams Mountain.

The EPI study, commissioned by the Coconino County Flood Control District, estimates that the economic impact from a catastrophic wildfire and the post-wildfire flooding in the Bill Williams Mountain watershed (City of Williams and downstream) is between $379 million and $694 million. The estimated cost of forest restoration on Bill Williams Mountain is approximately $8 million.

The response to a fire would incur immediate expenses, including suppression, post-fire rehabilitation, evacuation and repair costs. Long-term impacts of a catastrophic fire include the loss of sales tax revenue, tourist revenue, business revenue, and repair costs to railroads, highways and facilities.

Last year, a study conducted by J.E. Fuller Hydrology and Geomorphology, at the direction of the County’s Flood Control District, recommended the development of a pre-disaster plan to identify ways to reduce the impacts of flooding. The City of Williams is working with the County to develop the plan and secure funding.

The Bill Williams Mountain Watershed is located south and uphill from The City of Williams’ cultural, tourist, retail, residential and governmental core. The watershed is heavily used for outdoor recreation including a ski area, residential housing and summer camps.  It is also unnaturally dense with ponderosa pine and mixed-conifer forests and characterized by steep slopes, making this area vulnerable to an intense catastrophic wildfire and post-wildfire flooding.

Due to increasing fire danger with warmer and dryer weather conditions in the immediate forecast, the Kaibab National Forest closed the Bill Williams Mountain watershed area last week until the area receives significant precipitation.

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