Tonto Creek

An aerial photo shows Tonto Creek flooded in 2017 in Tonto Basin. Three children were swept away Nov. 29, when a family member tried to drive across the creek in high water. A total of eight people have died trying to cross the creek in vehicles since 1995. People in the rural area north of Roosevelt Lake frequently go around barricades to cross the creek.

GLOBE — A conflict between the migratory bird season around Tonto Creek and plans to clear the site for the new Tonto Creek bridge is altering project plans.

Homero Vela, assistant county manager, brought the matter to the Gila County Board of Supervisors March 16.

The change involves using county Highway User Revenue Funds amounting to $175,000 to pay for the final plans, specifications and estimates for Tonto Creek bridge. Previously the county had planned to use part of its 2020 Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development, or BUILD, Transportation Discretionary Grant program for this cost.

Vela said during a BUILD team meeting the question came up about how to leverage those funds prior to a grant agreement being in place between the BUILD team, Federal Highway Administration, Arizona Department of Transportation and Gila County.

He said BUILD guidelines called for a phased approach, phase one being leveraging the money to complete the PS&E. Phase two would be construction.

“The team realized if this path was followed, the project would be set back several months and possibly a year,” Vela said.

Gila County is utilizing Kimley-Horn as the engineers on the job, and the firm has already been vetted by the Federal Standard.

He said the Federal Highway Administration members on the BUILD team suggested a plan for writing a “white paper” that discusses modifications to the project. The modifications included the following excerpt from the white paper: The BUILD grant application, as approved, included $175,000 BUILD grant funds to be used for completion of the Final PS&E package and the reevaluation of the NEPA document. In order to keep the project on schedule, Gila County will instead take $175,000 of their match to pay for this work under a project previously authorized by FHWA. This will reduce the county’s match from $3 million to $2.825 million. The $175,000 of BUILD grant funds will then be applied to the construction of the bridge; Gila County will absorb the remaining $538 of the total project cost of $175,538.

In order to meet the schedule developed by the BUILD Team, it is necessary to hire Kimley-Horn & Associates to complete the final PS&E Package for the Tonto Creek bridge project.

The board approved the contract with Kimley-Horn and Associates for the final plans, specifications and estimates for Tonto Creek bridge project in the amount of $175,538

To maintain the project schedule, which is critical to the construction sequencing commitments required by the existing NEPA document to mitigate potential impacts to migratory birds and other sensitive natural resources, Gila County will use $175,000 of their non-federal match to complete the PS&E package. This will reduce the county’s non-federal match in the grant agreement from $3 million to $2.8 million. The $175,000 of BUILD grant funds will be used to construct the bridge.

The site will be cleared by March 2022; the migratory bird season is from May through October.


Teresa McQuerrey is a reporter for the Payson Roundup, a publication of Kramer Media. Contact the reporter at

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