Letter to the Editor
Munds Park New Flood Maps: A Call for Transparent Assessment and Immediate Action
Ms. Jennifer Toth
Director of ADOT
206 S. 17th Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85007
Ms. Jennifer Toth,
I am Larry Hering an Arizona Professional Engineer #11096 and I own a summer home in Northlodge, a small community of Munds Park which is approximately 17 miles south of Flagstaff. FEMA and Coconino County on 9/18/2023 held a public meeting in Munds Park to present updated flood maps for Munds Park showing changes in Flood Risk.
I am writing you because Interstate 17, a state highway and part of the Federal Interstate highway system runs through Munds Park and is adjacent to Northlodge. FEMA and Coconino County recently held a public meeting and the agencies verified that some of the homes in Northlodge and Interstate 17 through Munds Park will be designated as “Flood Zone AE” in the new flood maps for Munds Park. My research and discussions with Coconino County and J.E Fuller Engineering who were involved with the flood plain computer analysis led me to believe ADOT was never informed completely of the issues that I will outline in this letter.
In 2018 I reviewed a J.E. Fuller engineering study without an Executive Summary provided by Coconino County that documented engineering information and pictures for the flood plain issues that affect Northlodge and the Interstate 17 freeway. This was because Mr. Jim Wilson District Manager for Pinewood Sanitary District informed me that Coconino County was in the process of changing the FEMA flood plain maps for Munds Park. I wrote many emails in 2018 to Coconino County, FEMA, ADWR and J.E. Fuller Engineering. In addition, I had a conference call with a number of these agencies. All my emails are available for review including the conference call summary. In 2018 Mr. Ogden of J.E. Fuller Engineering led me to believe the flooding of Northlodge and topping of water over the Interstate 17 freeway was due to improper drainage under the freeway.
At the September 18, 2023 meeting Mr. Ogden of J.E. Fuller Engineering now says the existing 36 inch drainage pipe under the Interstate 17 freeway is no more of a relief to the flood waters than using a straw. Furthermore he stated adding additional 36 inch pipes under the freeway is like adding additional straws. Even though there is a concrete culvert under the freeway 1000 feet north of Northlodge floodwaters still enter Northlodge and top the freeway by 18 inches based on the flood elevation of 6482 feet. My 2018 review of the J.E. Fuller Engineering study validated that the concrete culvert and the 36 inch drainage pipe under the Interstate 17 Freeway, were never considered in any analysis that would allow ADOT to make sure the freeway was not a public safety hazard.
In 2018 Coconino County representatives, ADWR representatives and J.E. Fuller Engineering admitted that the flood plain computer analysis was based on existing conditions only without looking at the concrete drainage structure 1000 feet north of Northlodge, the 36 inch drainage pipe under the freeway or any other solutions to mitigate floodwater damages. In fact, I went to Ms. Edie Lohmann of FEMA in Oakland California in 2018 to expose the sham that was perpetrated as new FEMA flood maps. She assigned a person to work with me to sort this mess out. Unfortunately, California fires began in 2018, 2019 and COVID came in 2020. All work and assistance was canceled until out of the blue Coconino County holds this less than appropriate public meeting on September 18, 2023.
Unfortunately, the public meeting was not a live presentation by Coconino County but rather a number of tables set up with agencies at each table to talk with. This kept everyone separate disallowing any discussion among homeowners and represented agencies as a group activity. In addition, the live meeting was set on September 18 which did not allow as many people to attend because of the time of year. One could ask why all of this happened in this manner other than for “secrecy” of the flood plain study that had been completed by Coconino County with Federal Grant money. A real public meeting should happen that includes ADOT and that sets forth ADOT’s resolution of the concerns in this letter.
Mr. Ogden of J.E. Fuller Engineering was hired to complete the Flood analysis for Munds Park. He established that Interstate 17 will have a flood elevation of 6480.5 feet. This establishes a “flow rate over the freeway” based on 18 inches of water above the base flood elevation of 6482 feet. The new maps put parts of Northlodge and Interstate 17 through Munds Park in a Zone AE Flood Plain. Zone AE is defined as a high-risk flood zone. While statistically the liability for this high-risk flood zone is defined as a percentage risk over 30 years, the real risk is that this type of event can repeatedly happen in a short period of time irrespective of the statistics. The flooding we have seen in Arizona and our neighboring states in the past few years has shown that this hazard is very real.
According to information I obtained from the public meeting but cannot validate, ADOT has signed off on allowing Interstate 17 near Northlodge to become a high risk safety hazard during flooding events. This will cause severe injury, even death, from high speed vehicles trying to navigate flash flooding over the freeway. According to J. E. Fuller Engineering the flood studies were based on the freeway acting as a dam without taking into consideration the potential for drainage improvements under the freeway or in any other areas that would alleviate the possibility of flash flooding over the freeway.
In addition to creating a potential public safety hazard on Interstate 17, the new flood maps also create a liability for ADOT for flooding of homes in Northlodge because the interstate acts like a dam holding back water from its natural drainage. In fact, it acts more like a dirt dam that can be breached.
It is my understanding that ADOT is very conscious of highway safety so I believe ADOT has not signed off on making Interstate 17 through Munds Park a dangerous death trap. ADOT should be appalled over the information I have provided and hopefully investigate my allegations thoroughly so the freeway can be made safe for public usage. I would appreciate being kept informed as to what ADOT plans to do to mitigate the allegations I have provided.
11425 N. Baron Dr.
Fountain Hills Az. 85268
Cc: Jennifer Toth, Director of ADOT Certified U.S. Mail
William P. Ring, Coconino County Attorney Certified U.S. Mail
Kris Mayes, Arizona Attorney General Certified U.S. Mail
Steve Peru, Coconino County Manager Hand Delivered
The Pinewood News recognizes the importance of community awareness and dialogue on such critical matters. We are pleased to share Larry’s concerns and insights. Should you have any questions or require further information, Larry welcomes your outreach. His contact information is provided above. Your engagement and feedback are invaluable to our community.