City floodplain manager Josh Plumb (standing) talks to the Heritage District Citizens Committee about the floodplain. Photo by Ethan McSweeney

By Ethan McSweeney

Maricopa’s Heritage District doesn’t have too many options when it comes to addressing floodplain issues without a region-wide effort, according to a presentation to the district’s citizen advisory committee last week.

Josh Plumb, floodplain manager for the city of Maricopa, gave the Heritage District Citizen Advisory Committee an overview of the floodplain situation for the area and what would need to be done to find a solution to the issue.

Maricopa’s Heritage District has a 1 percent chance of flooding in any given year, also called a 100-year flood, as a result of being a low-lying area from the Santa Rosa Wash and the Vekol Wash. This means that the area has been designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency as a floodplain.

As a result of this status, if any redevelopment to a property within the Heritage District equals or is greater than 50 percent of the value of that property, then the property would need to be brought up to floodplain standards. It also requires that any homeowner in the area purchase flood insurance.

“The challenge to the area is that it limits what can be done in terms of redevelopment,” Plumb told the committee at its monthly meeting.

One couple who purchased a home in the Heritage District recently learned they would have to spend tens of thousands of dollars in order to bring their home up to floodplain standards.

Brian Foose, chairman of the Heritage District Citizen Advisory Committee, didn’t agree with the decision by FEMA to designate the area a floodplain.

“Unfortunately, the people in Washington who are looking through their satellites and their satellite imagery say that’s a lower area, that’s a floodplain,” Foose said.

Don Pearce, a member of the advisory committee and a long-time Maricopa resident, also didn’t believe that the floodplain status accurately reflects the situation, citing past experiences with flooding in the Maricopa area.

“This is ridiculous this floodplain,” he said. “I can’t see where they get this from.”

Plumb said any possible solution to the larger issue of limits to development in the floodplain would need to be addressed at a regional level with Pinal County, Pima County and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Santa Cruz River, from which the Santa Rosa and Vekol washes are tributaries, flows from Mexico through Santa Cruz and Pima counties north to Pinal County.

Some options that could help the Heritage District include a drainage project or a flood-retention area that would divert potential flooding.

“Obviously, funding is a major issue in terms of trying to do a regional solution for this,” Plumb said.

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