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Posted on: November 18, 2021

NRCS Approves $3.5 million for Museum Fire Watershed Restoration on Private Land

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The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has approved the Coconino County Flood Control District’s request for $3.5 million to construct watershed restoration measures on private lands in the Museum Flood Area.

These watershed restoration measures are being done to reduce flooding impacts to private properties and will reduce the level of sediment entering Flagstaff.

Earlier this month, NRCS State Conservationist Keisha Tatem approved the District’s application for Long-Term Emergency Watershed Protection Program funding for the design and construction of watershed restoration measures on private and municipal lands within the Museum Flood Area and forwarded the application to the federal NRCS office for consideration. The subsequent federal approval of this funding request came as great news to Coconino County Supervisors Patrice Horstman, District 1, and Jeronimo Vasquez, District 2, whose districts include neighborhoods downstream of the Museum Fire burn scar.

“NRCS has once again demonstrated its commitment to supporting post-wildfire watershed restoration for the Museum Flood Area,” said Supervisor Vasquez. “Reducing sediment is a prerequisite for improving flood mitigation downstream and within the City of Flagstaff, which left unchecked will quickly overwhelm the existing and any future improvements to downstream flood mitigation measures. I would like to thank NRCS for their ongoing partnership with our Flood Control District, which will benefit all our residents in the Museum Flood Area for years to come.” 

“This NRCS funding represents a significant win for the health and safety of our residents who are being impacted by post-wildfire flooding each summer,” said Supervisor Horstman. “Critical watershed restoration projects like these are very expensive and cannot be accomplished without significant financial assistance. The NRCS funding, along with the funding committed last week by the U.S. Forest Service, will make possible a system of sediment reduction/watershed restoration measures above our communities, which will support investments by the City of Flagstaff in long-term flood mitigation within the city.”

The District’s goal is to complete construction of these and the on-forest measures before the start of monsoon season. However, construction is contingent on many factors such as securing landowner approvals, utility relocations, and weather. 

This is the second major funding announcement regarding watershed restoration in as many weeks. On November 9, the Chief of the U.S. Forest Service pledged to provide $3.5 million toward Coconino County Flood Control District’s request for federal funding for on-forest watershed restoration measures. The funds will be used to design and construct watershed restoration measures, which will include restoration and stabilization of alluvial fans and stabilization of channels on Forest Service land between the Museum Fire burn scar and the City of Flagstaff. 

The Museum Flood Area experienced five significant flooding events over July and August. Two business and 53 homes sustained interior damage, which was estimated at a cost of $923,000. City infrastructure damage totaled over $845,000 and the Flood Control District spent $1.35 million on monsoon flooding response during this period. 

Last summer, the Flood Control District requested assistance from NRCS and received $454,000 in exigency funding for an emergency channel stabilization project in Mt. Elden Estates to decrease serious erosion from repetitive flooding that is destroying private properties and roads, threatening area homes. This erosion also sources sediment, which is then transported downstream, negatively impacting downstream infrastructure and homes as well as utilities within Flagstaff.

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