Arizona has been known for some pretty intense monsoons that can cause extensive damage to buildings and roads.  For those who live in Golden Shores, monsoons sometimes mean residents are blocked off from I-40 for at least 24 hours while Mohave County road crews work around the clock to remove deposited sediment and standing water on Oatman Highway. According to Supervisor Buster Johnson, being able to construct flood control improvements to the area is a lot easier said than done.  “In 1988, a 100-foot right-of-way section was turned over to Mohave County by the State of Arizona.  That is currently the only section of the Sacramento Wash that is owned by the county,” Johnson explained.  “The adjacent upstream and downstream of Sacramento Wash is owned and administrated by the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge (Refuge) under the control of the United States Department of Interior,” Johnson continued. The Sacramento Wash serves drainage basins from Topock, Yucca, and Golden Valley as far as 70 miles upstream from its point-of-discharge into the Topock Marsh.  According to Mohave County Public Works Director Steve Latoski, the Refuge has prohibited the county from entering and disturbing Refuge lands outside the county’s 100-foot right-of-way.  “The Refuge has taken a position that sediment must remain in place undisturbed until a representative from the Fort Mojave Indian or Colorado River Indian Tribes is present to inspect and clear sediment before removal,” Johnson said.  “They are concerned that flood waters may contain possible artifacts transported from the greater Black Mountains area.  It is my understanding that no artifacts have ever been found,” Johnson continued.  According to Latoski, the only thing the county can do is remove and relocate the dirt within the county’s right-of-way only. Supervisor Johnson stated that the sediment building up on the Refuge’s land is forming dams and forcing ponds to form along the county’s right-of-way.  “County road crews have to go out there every time it rains to pump water out of these ponds.  Over the past 18 years, it has been frustrating to watch our county tax dollars being spent to fix a problem that could had very easily been resolved years ago,” Johnson stated.  According to Johnson, the latest storm to impact the area resulted not only in debris clean up, but an entire section of roadway had to be replaced.  “If the federal government and the Indians would co-operate, we could make this section of Oatman Highway safer for everyone,” Johnson continued. Mohave County is currently undergoing a three part phase to find a permanent solution to the problem.  According to Latoski, the first phase will be completed within three months with the county’s Road Division implementing a heavy maintenance project to improve Oatman Highway at the Sacramento Wash.  “This project should lesson the potential of standing water on the traveled way and promote flow through the wash,” Latoski explained.  “The second phase will take place in this fiscal year. The County has budgeted $250,000 toward a capital improvement project to develop a structural low-water crossing to pass Sacramento Wash below Oatman Highway within the County controlled 100-foot right-of-way,” Latoski continued. A permanent solution will eventually have to include improvements to more than just the county’s 100-foot right-of-way.  According to Supervisor Johnson, the Refuge has refused to grant the county permits to go onto their land to implement these needed improvements.  “In order to proceed, the Refuge has stated that the county will have to purchase the needed rights-of-ways.  The county plans to hire a consultant to help determine exactly how much Refuge land will need to be purchased.  From there the county will have to apply for federal permits to proceed with the acquisition which could be a lengthy process,” Johnson ended.

For up-to-date reports on current weather and flooding conditions, please visit:   http://www.mohavecounty.us/ContentPage.aspx?id=124&page=13&cid=392

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