The City of Winslow and several regional communities along the Little Colorado River are facing a more secure, prosperous, and drier future with the announcement of almost $66 million in federal funding for the Winslow Levee project.
The project is critical for the region’s economic development, but also has implications for the national economy as well. More than 100 BNSF trains double stacked with cargo containers cross over the Little Colorado River in Winslow every day, and the City serves as a critical link in the movement of billions of dollars in goods between the port of Long Beach and Chicago.
For those not familiar with the history of the Winslow Levee system, it is as complicated as the hydrology of the river itself. Over more than a century, sporadic attempts have been made to control the river and keep it from flooding adjacent communities. But since flooding events have been recorded in the region, the Little Colorado River has overflowed its banks and inundated areas more than 17 times.
In 2008, the Federal Emergency Management Agency decertified the Winslow Levee, which placed about two thirds of Winslow residents into a flood zone, requiring many to purchase flood insurance. Property values were stifled by FEMA restrictions on renovating or improving buildings. Nearly every home, business, school, hospital and emergency services provider is now located in the 100-year flood zone.
Securing the funding marks a new era for the City and surrounding communities, said City Manager (and ECoNA Executive Board Member) John Barkley.
“The Federal funding of this project represents the culmination of many years of hard work and persistence on the part of City and Navajo County leadership,” he said. The federal contribution, being made under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, represents about two-thirds of the money needed to complete the project. The City is exploring ways in which to secure the remaining funding needed.
We look forward to seeing this massive infrastructure plan come to fruition and grateful not only for the work of city and county officials, but also the support of Congressman Tom O’Halleran and Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly for this project.
The replacement and completion of the Winslow Levee system will go a long way in protecting our rural and tribal communities, create jobs, increase property values and stimulate the local economy in northern Arizona.