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Wed, June 26

Residents say county road improvements cause homes to flood

Sheila Rhodes stands near some of the new culverts she says are flooding her home.<br>
Photo courtesy Scott Orr

Sheila Rhodes stands near some of the new culverts she says are flooding her home.<br> Photo courtesy Scott Orr

Call it the Law of Unintended Consequences.

For years, residents of Poquito Valley, north of the Viewpoint subdivision, dealt with the inconvenience of a dirt road. When it rained, the muddy road became nearly impassable.

When it was dry, people complained about how poorly it was maintained.

Finally, Yavapai County agreed to pave Poquito Valley Road as part of an improvement district, at a cost of $2,600 per two-acre parcel assessed to property owners.

But some neighbors here smelled trouble coming.

In January 2010, a Courier article included an interview with Shirley Masshar, who said, "We're scared we're going to be flooded out."

Other residents echoed her comments. "It's like having an open drain coming in your front door," Michele Dore said.

Now, they say they were right to worry.

In September 2010, the Poquito Valley Road paving project was completed. The next month, when it began to rain, people who said they had never had any trouble with flooding began seeing rising waters invade their property.

The water, they said, is coming from the culverts installed near where Poquito Valley Road intersects with Trottin Down Lane and Ranch Hand Road.

Those culverts collect and then send large volumes of rainwater rushing directly onto downhill properties that used to get a lot less water; the lighter volume could soak into the ground, but the flow that comes from the culverts does not.

"When they shot that road through there, they elevated the roadbed," said Gil Shaw, attorney for the residents. "They put culverts in there. It was pretty obvious it was going to alter the flow of water. (The contractor) told everybody that."

Perhaps the worst damage alleged to have been caused by the runoff is at Sheila Rhodes' house, where she lives with her 14-year-old son, Dusty. Even a light rain now sends sheets of water running into her home on Ranch Hand Road, Rhodes said.

By December 2010, Rhodes said, she was having problems with her house settling and cracking. Doors in her house don't close any more, and because water comes up from the foundation, mold has become a problem.

Her son, an asthmatic, is now suffering from the effects of the mold infestation, but they have no place else to go, so he's forced to live with the condition. The plumbing does not work correctly anymore because the septic tank has shifted, and now she can't flush her toilet.

"This is a nightmare," she said, tears rolling down her cheeks. "It's destroyed my house."

Other residents have experienced flooding, rushing water that erodes their land, and pooling water on their properties.

County Supervisor Carol Springer, in whose district the houses sit, is not convinced that the problem was caused by the roadwork.

"They're in an area where there has historically been flooding, so there is some concern that a lot of the water they are getting is water they have historically gotten," Springer said. "What we don't know for sure is whether or not any additional water is flowing onto those properties."

Shaw represents four homeowners affected by the flooding. This winter was relatively dry, and, already, there have been problems, Shaw said. Now, monsoon season is the real worry.

"Our fear is, now the monsoons are going to kick in, and they're going to get wiped out," he said.

Shaw has filed a Notice of Claim with Yavapai County; that's the precursor to a lawsuit.

But Shaw said a lawsuit or any protracted court battle won't help, because once the rains come, the problems will only get worse.

The Daily Courier called Byron Jaspers of Yavapai County's Public Works Department for comment, but he said he was unable to discuss the situation because of the potential pending litigation.

"I would hope the county would see there's a significant problem out there," Shaw said. "I know the county is strapped for funds, but there's got to be a way to deal with it.

"The more they ignore it, the more it will compound itself."

Springer said, despite her skepticism about what's causing the problem, "If there is a way that we can assist these property owners with a way to divert some of the water they are getting, we will try to do that."

Rhodes remains angry. "(The county) knew this would happen. I don't understand why they did it anyway."

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