As longtime Casa Grande residents are aware, when the heavy rains come down, the old downtown area is prone to flooding, which snarls traffic and threatens businesses.
In the past, it was not unusual to see sandbags trying to keep water out of the CookEJar restaurant at the corner of Second and Florence streets.
Nine years ago, the city began downtown streets reconstruction projects, revamping Main Street in the first phase and Second Street and others in the 2012 second phase.
Part of that second phase was to be flood control.
But it didn’t happen.
As Public Works Director Kevin Louis told the City Council before approval of a $96,110 contract for a drainage master plan, his department looked at the design for phase two, which had a heavy drainage section, but decided to wait.
“When we looked at the improvements that were designed and the impacts it would have on the drainage in that downtown area based on the estimate, you would not even be able to tell we’d made any improvements with the amount of money at that time,” Louis said. “So, staff decided to move forward — and City Council supported that decision — at the time to address drainage as a future phase.”
He added, “We’re now at that point where we’re going to design the master plan for drainage in the downtown, identify which of those pieces need to be constructed with which phases as we go forward with future design of our next phase, which would be Phase III. This is the first step in that direction.”
Answering a question from Councilwoman Mary Kortsen about the project boundaries, Louis said, “Casa Grande Avenue would probably be the limits of drainage improvements on the east side and then going all the way to Highway 84, the underpass on the west side (where water would go into an arroyo).”
He added, “There will most likely be some improvements north of Second Street, bringing drainage to south of Second, most likely to First Street, the most logical street to put a large conduit in and convey that water to the west.”
Councilman Dick Powell asked if all the streets would have to be torn up, including the ones already improved, and would the work wait until the other streets need repaving.
With the exception of one intersection, Louis replied, “Our hope is not to have any improvement at any of the streets that we’ve made improvements to to-date.”
He added, “No, we do not need to wait until the streets need to be repaved; they need to be repaved today. So that has already come and passed.”
What the master plan will look at, Louis continued, are “the total improvements that are needed to address the flooding issues in the downtown area, and we would look at different ways to convey that water from basically east to west on the north side of the tracks. The entire drainage basin is about one-and-a-half square miles, so it goes much further than the historic downtown, but we need to catch those flows, channelize those and get them to the west side of the downtown area.”
He added, “Currently, that is done on surface drainage and everybody who has seen the rain in the downtown areas knows how that impacts each of those businesses down there. It will be a combination of improvements, and I can’t even speculate where we’ll see those improvements or what type they are until we finish that study, but I would envision some type of box culvert structure (below pavement) going down the middle of First Street, which is one we have not reconstructed. We will have to go through one intersection that was reconstructed, but we looked at that and really couldn’t do anything to put a conduit in place so that we didn’t have to tear that up. But that should be the only street that was reconstructed that will have to be impacted…otherwise we should be ready to go.”
Councilman Ralph Varela asked if meetings will be held with businesses in the area to gather their feedback.
Louis replied that, “We’ll look at what the proposed improvements will be and then determine how best to make that outreach effort to the community. Of course, when we start any construction in the downtown area we’re going to have an extensive outreach project. We’ll have a project kickoff meeting prior to that. When we’re in design, we’ll be reaching out to the public getting their input on those different options so that we know what their issues are so we can try to address those through the design process, as well.”
According to the scope of work list, the contract calls for planners to report on each of three phases as the planning continues.
“The first phase will be a draft report after the existing conditions modeling,” it says. “This report will summarize the model results and will be presented to the city prior to the alternatives analysis phase for review and comment. The second phase will be a draft report after alternatives analysis presenting the results of the alternatives development to the city for review and comment. The second phase draft report will be submitted prior to the public meeting.”
It continues, “The consultant shall prepare a final report incorporating all the findings of the project. The final report will include summaries of the existing conditions hydrologic and hydraulic modeling, determination of flood prone locations, engineering analysis for flood hazard mitigation alternatives, potential utility conflicts and constraints, right-of-way constraints, aesthetic and environmental considerations, green infrastructure concepts incorporated into the alternatives, description of the three chosen alternatives, cost analysis of the three alternatives, results from the public meeting, evaluation criteria for the preferred alternative and implementation plan for the preferred alternative. A draft report will be submitted to the city for review. The consultant shall address all city comments and submit a final report with the completion of the project.”
No estimate was given for when the planning will begin or when it will be completed.