Aztec residents hear results of drainage study

Hannah Grover
Aztec City Engeineer William Watson talks about the chronic flooding problems at the Blanco Arroyo on Dec. 23 in Aztec.

AZTEC – Engineers told residents here Thursday that a storm in August that caused widespread flooding was at least a 500-year event based on rain gauge information.

That means storms of that magnitude happen statistically every 500 years. The rain gauge measurements showed more than 3 1/2 inches of precipitation fell over a 24-hour period.

That was one of the biggest pieces of information the engineers shared with the public during a public meeting. Dozens of people packed City Hall to hear the results of a drainage study that AECOM engineers performed.

Maps depicting the flow of water during 25-year and 100-year storms in the Blanco, Kokopelli and Hampton arroyos areas were hung on walls and displayed on tables throughout the room.

"These maps that we've created don't reflect the storms that you've experienced," said Jim DeAngelo, a hazard mitigation principal at AECOM. "They reflect the storms that you could see in the future."

DeAngelo explained that funding from the federal government for storm mitigation is often based on the 25-year storm partially because most civil engineering projects have a 25-year life span.

"The goal of our project was to help identify projects that could be fundable with federal money," he said.

AECOM engineers will use the data and the maps to come up with potential projects that the city could build to prevent future flooding and to develop a conceptual plan for the projects.

City Manager Josh Ray said the next step in identifying possible solutions is the exciting part of the drainage study. Ray said coming up with the funding for the projects will be one of the challenges. He said the city's gross receipts tax revenue is down, so finding other sources of funding will be necessary.

"The larger construction projects won't be underway by August," he said referring to the coming monsoon season.

But Ray said city crews are working to clear ditches and detention ponds in preparation for this year's storms.

After looking over the maps, resident Dennis Taylor said they displayed what he experienced at his Kokopelli-area home.

Water flowed into his crawl space and knocked out a neighbor's brick wall when an irrigation ditch overflowed, flooding the street.

"We're lower than the street itself," Taylor said about his house.

Because the property is not listed in a flood plain, Taylor did not have flood insurance on his house.

"I put the blame on the developer," he said. "He wasn't held to a tight standard making sure the water went back to the arroyos."

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.