Storm water project improves safety - Tucson Local Media: News

Storm water project improves safety

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Posted: Wednesday, November 23, 2011 4:00 am

Sometimes major feats go unnoticed because they’re not flashy or don’t warrant a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Sometimes only staff and a handful of residents are even aware of the work that is performed by Town of Oro Valley employees.

The recent completion of the Lomas de Oro Wash drainage improvement project, south of Lambert Lane and La Cholla Blvd, is such an example.

Through innovative planning and fiscally-sound decision making, the Town of Oro Valley facilitated partnerships at the federal, state, county and municipal levels to rebuild and upgrade the Lomas de Oro Wash to withstand a 100-year storm event. The urgency and importance of this project came to light during the 2006 monsoon season.

A catastrophic storm that year overwhelmed the capacity of the wash and garnered a Presidential Disaster Declaration for Pima County. The wash, a portion of which was annexed into the Town in the 1990s, was originally designed to handle a 25-year storm event.

The 2006 storm destroyed embankments that would continue to erode if not repaired. In the immediate area, and at risk, should the wash flood again was approximately 20 homes.

At the helm of this massive project was the Oro Valley Storm Water Utility, which hired Psomas Engineering and A.G.E. Construction & Development to see the plan to completion.

Based on project need, aesthetics, cost, longevity and return on investment, the town secured a $1.8 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality contributed 15 percent of the total project cost, and the Pima Regional City Flood Control District paid 10 percent.

To expedite the project timeline, reduce costs and reduce the impact to traffic, the box culvert sections were pre-cast and delivered onsite. Lucero Road was re-opened to traffic after just one day of construction. Had the decision been made to construct box culverts onsite, the Town would have been looking at an additional two-month detour.

The Lomas de Oro Wash was redesigned and constructed to contain a 100-year storm event. The entire project was completed under budget and in eight months.

The newly-constructed, all-weather crossing on Lucero Road ensures safe passage for homeowners and emergency vehicles, even during flood conditions. The improved quality of the banks along the wash will increase its longevity, and nine homes, which were previously in the flood plain, are now safe on dry land.

Aesthetically, this isn’t your typical wash. Gabions, which are a “rocks-in-a-basket” type of construction, have been used only for support areas. But for the first time, the entire channel was lined with gabions, giving the wash a unique look with durability and functionality.

Editor’s Note: Paul Jungen is the storm water engineer for the Town of Oro Valley

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