Coconino County Approves $7.6 Million in Funding for Forest Restoration in Upper Rio De Flag Watershed & on Bill Williams Mountain



FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — The Coconino County Flood Control District Board of Directors approved on Tuesday about $7.6 million of capital expenditures to support forest restoration projects in the Upper Rio de Flag Watershed near Flagstaff and on Bill Williams Mountain above the City of Williams. Funded through the Flood Control District’s Forest Restoration Initiative, these funds will be used to leverage federal investment from the U.S. Forest Service to conduct forest treatments that will reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire and post-wildfire flooding in these areas.

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The investment comes on the heels of a series of studies produced by the District that quantified the potential risk of wildfire and post-wildfire flooding in the Upper Rio de Flag Watershed on the west side of the San Francisco Peaks. According to these studies, this watershed is at high risk of catastrophic wildfire that could result in an economic impact to the greater Flagstaff area ranging from $535 million to $2.8 billion. A similar 2016 study of the Bill Williams Mountain area determined a potential economic impact of $365-$700 million to the regional economy.

“When we consider the economic, ecological, and cultural cost of wildfire on the San Francisco Peaks, the investment into proactive forest restoration measures is not just sensible, it is imperative,” said Coconino County District 1 Supervisor Patrice Horstman. “We are all too familiar with the vicious cycle of fire and flooding. We’re putting our money where our mouth is to reduce the two greatest public safety threats in Coconino County – catastrophic wildfire and post-wildfire flooding.”

“The Bill Williams Mountain Forest Restoration Project has seen good progress already,” said Coconino County District 3 Supervisor Adam Hess. “With these added investments, we are one step closer to the finish line.”

The U.S. Forest Service recently announced its forest restoration plan for the Upper Rio de Flag Watershed, which, in its initial phase, will treat about 12,000 high-priority acres across the 21,500 acre watershed over the next 3 to 5 years. With the recent capital expenditure approval, the District will contribute $2,064,000 to Upper Rio de Flag Forest Restoration Project, and the U.S. Forest Service has committed about $11 million. To the Bill Williams Mountain Forest Restoration Project, the District has committed $5.6 million and the U.S. Forest Service will commit $7,500,000.

“We have worked hand-in-hand with the U.S. Forest Service on both the Bill Williams Mountain and Upper Rio de Flag Watershed projects,” explained Coconino County Forest Restoration Director Jay Smith. “The distribution of funding reflects this partnership, as we determined that by committing more funding to Bill Williams Mountain, we could free up funds for the Forest Service to tackle the lion’s share of the Upper Rio De Flag Watershed.”

For more information on the Upper Rio De Flag Watershed Restoration Plan, visit: www.coconino.az.gov/3302/Upper-Rio-De-Flag-Watershed-Forest-Resto

For more information on the Bill Williams Mountain Forest Restoration Project, visit: www.coconino.az.gov/2132/Bill-Williams-Mountain-Forest-Restoratio

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