Some people remember floods that devastated Pinal County in 1983 and 1993, especially the earlier one, which covered the then-small community of Maricopa with mud and destruction. In the early 2000s, Maricopa began developing into one of the county’s largest cities, and planning resulted in some stream channeling to protect new developments. Now we have had a long drought that has left some newer residents wondering how rainfall could threaten the county.
Meanwhile, Maricopa’s continued development has caused some areas to remain vacant or in need of special flood insurance because they would be threatened when heavy flows returned to the normally dry Santa Cruz River. This includes some big parts of the city.
There has been talk for years about the difficult task of real flood protection for the Lower Santa Cruz River Basin, but everyone knows there is no simple solution. Now a study of the floodplain has been authorized by recent legislation passed by Congress. That floodplain includes 11 square miles in Maricopa.
The Army Corps of Engineers study will not alone solve the problem. But it will point in the right direction. Getting it authorized followed years of cooperation between the city, county, area Indian communities and federal agencies. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema played a key role.
Maricopa sees huge potential investment in its economy that could result from flood protection. That is important to being more than a bedroom community.
Other Pinal County communities and rural areas rely on flood control infrastructure for protection. But Maricopa is especially vulnerable long term. It is not likely to be flooded soon, but a real solution is needed and that will take a major project with some serious federal dollars but also funding from various stakeholders. The study is needed to start and coordinate that effort.
The Corps of Engineers study is a welcome first step. Then more action will be needed.