Flood control channel likely to spur development


The city of Maricopa is working with a group of developers and landowners on an agreement to build a massive flood-control channel that would open 3,200 acres of land within the city for development.

The tract of land is located along the Maricopa/Casa Grande Highway and stretches seven miles to the south, at times exceeding a mile in width. The area is adjacent to the North Santa Cruz Wash in what is called a 100-year floodplain, meaning that every year there is a one-in-100 chance of a flood.

Devastating floods hit this area in 1983 and again in 1993.

“When a flood hits this wash, we are looking at 9,800 cubic feet of water per second,” said Chris Salas, Maricopa’s transportation manager.

Currently, there are no homes in the massive tract of land because statutory limitations placed on land in a floodplain make development nearly impossible, according to Salas. However, several developers have submitted preliminary plans for future subdivisions in the area and the city owns a 145-acre parcel in the tract slated as the site of a new city hall.

The city hall complex is scheduled to break ground by November 2011, according to the design firm behind the project, Abacus Project Management Inc.

However, Salas said before the project begins the city acreage must be secured from flooding. “We are not allowed to build public facilities in a flood zone,” he said.

To remove the entire 3,200 acres from the flood plane, the city plans to construct a seven-mile channel stretching from the Maricopa/Casa Grande Highway to the city’s border with the Gila River Indian Community.

To accomplish this, the city staff is working with developers on an agreement involving landowners in the flood plane giving the land necessary to build the channel to the city.

These landowners have also agreed to be assessed to help cover a portion of the maintenance and construction cost, according to Thomas J. McDonald, an attorney representing the landowners involved in the agreement.

The project was initially estimated to cost $25 million, but Salas said city staff members believe that the project will come in at a far lower figure when it is put out to bid.

Salas said it is likely to take years to secure funding for the entire channel and complete construction, but the city could do the project in sections in order to remove the city hall parcel from the flood plain in time for construction to go forward as planned.