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3:27 AM Wed, Sept. 26th

2017 flood victim takes precautions to protect property from anticipated 2018 flooding

County flood control recommends homeowners evaluate property safety before it’s too late

Spring Valley resident Paul Teolis points out the height of a berm he created on his property between his home and Big Bug Creek as a means of protecting his home from anticipated flooding. (Max Efrein/Courier)

Spring Valley resident Paul Teolis points out the height of a berm he created on his property between his home and Big Bug Creek as a means of protecting his home from anticipated flooding. (Max Efrein/Courier)

On July 19, 2017, Spring Valley resident Paul Teolis watched helplessly as his 5-acre property was all but wiped out by a major flood.

Big Bug Creek, which Teolis lives alongside, had swelled to nearly unprecedented levels following a monsoon storm. The amount of rain itself wasn’t unusual.

Rather, what caused the flooding was unimpeded runoff passing over the Goodwin Fire burn scar in the Bradshaw Mountains above the Mayer area. Overall, about three houses and 70 trailers — many of which bordered Big Bug Creek — were damaged or destroyed in the consistent flooding that occurred in the weeks following the Goodwin Fire, the Courier reported.

In Teolis’s case, his 4,000-square-foot home was compromised as water made its way under the foundation; his barn filled with 2 feet of mud; and a major portion of a 6-foot chain-link fence encompassing the property was flattened by rushing rapids and accompanying debris.

“At the time, I thought, ‘this is it, this is the end of my life’s prosperity,” Teolis said.

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Spring Valley resident Paul Teolis used a tractor to dig into the portion of Big Bug Creek that winds through his property, so he could lower the creek bed and use the excavated soil to build a berm between his home and the creek. (Paul Teolis/Courtesy)

A disabled single parent who relies mostly on Social Security to get by, Teolis, 49, decided to reach out to the community for help.

Mainly, he knew that if he didn’t do something to protect his home, the flooding would occur again, so he asked that anyone assist him in acquiring equipment and materials to construct some sort of barrier between the creek and his home.

Only one man responded to his plea, and that man turned out to be more than just a helping hand. “I’m calling him an angel,” Teolis said.

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Paul Teolis’ neighbor, Paul Davis, has also built up a berm between his home and Big Bug Creek to protect from flooding. (Max Efrein/Courier)

The man, who has wished to remain anonymous, completely funded the cost of materials and equipment needed to repair the severely damaged portions of Teolis’s property and build the conceived barrier.

“He paid for all of it,” Teolis said. “We’re talking in excess of $40,000. Who does that? Here I am a poor, single dad, and he just completely helped my life in a lot of different ways.”

The barrier Teolis was able to construct is now complete and is a force to be reckoned with.

He first dug into the creek about 15 feet deep, 400 feet long and 10 feet wide to lower the whole creek bed.

He then used all of the excavated material to build a 400 feet long, eight feet tall and 35 feet wide berm.

To do this sort of work, he had to write up plans and submit them to the Yavapai County Flood Control District. After a few tweaks to his initial plans, the district approved them and inspected the work afterward as well to make sure that none of what he had done would negatively impact anyone downstream.

OTHERS TAKING ACTION

Teolis is not the only one along Big Bug Creek that has taken action to protect their land from flooding. His next door neighbor, Paul Davis, has worked to maintain a berm of his own for a couple of years now.

“[The creek] floods all the time,” Davis said. “It’ll wash out about the size of a truck’s worth of rock and soil. Once it’s gone, I just find stuff in the creek bed and fill it back up, because [the flooding’s] not gonna stop.”

In fact, the level of flooding that occurred downstream of the Goodwin Fire burn scar last year could be just as bad this coming summer monsoon season, said Yavapai County Flood Control District Director Lynn Whitman.

Reason being, the seeding of the burn scar to assist in the regrowth of vegetation has not resulted in the sort of progress many were hoping to see by now.

“The growth started last fall, but with the dry winter that we’ve had, we do have concerns that it wasn’t enough growth to really be as much protection as we would have liked, so we are definitely concerned about that area again for this year,” Whitman said.

Starting in May, the flood control district will be warning area residents of the potential flooding the monsoon season could bring.

“We’ve got a list of homes that were damaged last year, so we’ll reach out to them specifically, but also in general to the area,” Whitman said.

For those who are concerned about their property potentially being impacted by monsoon flooding, Whitman suggests they contact the flood control district to have a hydrologist meet them on their property to assess their situation and make individual recommendations.

The Yavapai County Flood Control District can be reached by calling 928-771-3197.

A basic precaution property owners can take is to clear out debris in or near their property that may limit water flow and cause pooling on the properties.

“The more they can open that up the better, to allow the water to go where it needs to go,” Whitman said.

Perhaps most importantly, however, is for people to acquire flood insurance for their homes, personal property (i.e. clothing, furniture, and electronic equipment) or both.

“[Flood insurance] is going to be the best recovery,” Whitman said.

Follow Max Efrein on Twitter @mefrein, email him at mefrein@prescottaz.com or call him at 928-445-3333 ext. 1105.