Flood Control District Awarded $19.3 Million for Highway 89 Post-Wildfire Flood Resiliency Project



FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — The U.S. Department of Transportation recently announced that it would award $19.3 million to the Coconino County Flood Control District through the Promoting Resilient Operations for Transformative, Efficient, and Cost-Saving Transportation (PROTECT) Grant program. The funds will go toward the District’s Highway 89 Post-Wildfire Flood Resiliency Project, one of many projects the District has pursued to mitigate post-wildfire flooding from the 2022 Pipeline Fire.

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As a principal arterial connecting Flagstaff to Utah, Colorado, the Navajo Nation, Hopi Tribal Lands, and Grand Canyon National Park, Highway 89 is a vital interstate thoroughfare that supports travel of over 11,000 vehicles per day. The 2022 Pipeline Fire damaged 8 watersheds above the Highway 89 corridor near Flagstaff, resulting in increased rainfall discharge up to 26 times greater than pre-fire conditions. This has caused severe and repetitive post-wildfire flooding in the Highway 89 corridor. During the 2022 monsoon season, Highway 89 was forced to close 13 separate times due to flooding, with the shortest detour available leading travelers 136 miles through remote, rural roads.

“Many of our communities depend on Highway 89 to access employment, education, healthcare, and services in Flagstaff,” said Coconino County District 5 Supervisor Lena Fowler. “For these communities, resilience in Highway 89 is resilience in their way of life. We’re grateful that the U.S. Department of Transportation has recognized this important investment in the Highway 89 Post-Wildfire Flood Resiliency Project.”

The Highway 89 Post-Wildfire Flood Resiliency Project is a part of a larger post-wildfire flood mitigation strategy designed to reduce flood risk to Highway 89 and about a billion dollars’ worth of properties at risk in the Highway 89 corridor. This project will consist of a crossing beneath Highway 89 to convey flows through the Government Tank Flood Corridor and expanding the Copeland Detention Facility. The later project supports improved flood mitigation systems west of the highway and reduces impacts to Hwy. 89 and downstream neighborhoods. The District has been actively constructing flood mitigation systems in this area since spring 2023.

“The District has invested nearly $50 million to date—with much more to come—in post-wildfire flood mitigation systems upstream of Highway 89,” said District Administrator Lucinda Andreani. “Thanks to these newly awarded PROTECT funds, we can be sure that these systems will be augmented by the much-needed element of flood mitigation for Highway 89.”

The PROTECT grant total award of $19,296,410 requires a match, the majority of which will be provided by a $3.7 million AZ SMART grant through the Arizona State Transportation Board. The District applied for this grant at the same time that it applied for the PROTECT grant and was awarded the match in late 2023. The District will also contribute roughly $192,000 in matching funds.

With the addition of the recently awarded PROTECT grant, the total investment in post-wildfire flood mitigation following the 2022 Pipeline Fire has reached nearly $160 million. These funds have come from the U.S. Forest Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Department of Transportation, Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management, the State Transportation Board, County Flood Control District and Coconino County.

“Once again, we are shown the immense benefit that has come to Coconino County through our strong state and federal partnerships,” said Coconino County District 2 Supervisor and Chair of the Board Jeronimo Vasquez. “We owe gratitude to the support of our Congressional partners—Senators Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema, to Secretary Buttigieg, to MetroPlan, who helped develop this PROTECT project and grant application, and to all of agencies that have contributed to our response and recovery in the face of devastating wildfire. This is just a small example of the public good that can be achieved when all levels of government work together.”

“Over the past decade, Coconino County’s Flood Control District has developed innovative flood mitigation systems that blend natural solutions and traditional flood mitigation engineering,” said Kate Morley, Executive Director of MetroPlan in Flagstaff. “They have built strong partnerships with the USDA’s Forest Service and NRCS and many others and are now sought after on the national level for their expertise.”

Funded with $848 million through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the PROTECT grant program issues competitive grants for projects that ensure surface transportation resilience to natural hazards including climate change, sea level rise, flooding, extreme weather events, and other natural disasters. The Coconino County Flood Control District submitted a PROTECT grant application to fund the Highway 89 Post-Wildfire Flood Resiliency Project in 2023.

For more information on post-wildfire flood mitigation following the 2022 Pipeline Fire, visit: www.coconino.az.gov/PipelineFireFloodArea

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