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Forest Service to provide $3.5 million to mitigate runoff from Flagstaff's Museum Fire burn scar

Coconino County's Flood Control District will receive $3.5 million from the U.S. Forest Service for watershed restoration in the area between the 2019 Museum Fire burn scar and Flagstaff. 

The funding will be used to stabilize areas of soil runoff such as alluvial flows and water channels to slow down the amount of raw sediment pouring off the burn scar and into Flagstaff neighborhoods, including Mt. Elden Estates, Sunnyside, Paradise and Grandview. 

Last summer, a 200- to 500-year rain event damaged nearly 100 homes and caused millions in damage. 

Flagstaff resident Robert Gooch  captured video of the water surging down the street.

Jeronimo Vasquez is a Coconino County supervisor.

"Now that we know what’s going to happen upstream, that will help the city of Flagstaff make the decisions they need to make to fix their stormwater system to accommodate these new flooding events that we’re experiencing now," Vasquez said.

County officials are concerned about what next year may bring.

County Supervisor Patrice Horstman said the funding will be put to what she called "shovel-ready" projects before next year’s monsoon.

"So there is a limited window for a lot of work that needs to get done to help mitigate the flood waters the monsoons could bring," she said.

Lucinda Andreani is flood control district administrator.

"The threat of wildfire and wildfire flooding remains. And we also discussed that yesterday with the Forest Service and we’ll be partnering with them on forest restorations as well," Andreani said.

Forest Service Chief Randy Moore toured the flood area Tuesday and visited the site of the Schultz Fire flood area where in 2010 homes four miles away were damaged.

U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema hosted a roundtable with Moore. In a press release, Sinema's office said the roundtable also discussed the benefits to forest management provided by the infrastructure bill that passed the U.S. House.

"We’ve seen the devastating effects of unmanaged forests on Arizonans’ lives and livelihoods. That’s why I’m proud our bipartisan infrastructure bill makes critical investments to prevent wildfires and floods in Arizona communities and businesses, and I’m calling on the Forest Service to partner with us in continuing to take action on forest management funding," Sinema said through the release.

Fronteras Desk senior editor Michel Marizco is an award-winning investigative reporter based in Flagstaff.