Scottsdale stormwater officials plan to recommend hiring additional experts to analyze drainage plans for all new development in flood-prone areas, particularly in the city’s north.
The proposal calls for beefing up the Water Resources Department with four new staff positions. Currently, city stormwater experts only review a small number of development drainage plans.
“It would augment our ability to scrutinize and review new development, especially new development that’s sensitive from a drainage standpoint,” said Ashley Couch, city stormwater management director.
The issue of flooding in north Scottsdale came to the forefront after City Councilman Tony Nelssen received calls from residents who experienced flooding during a July thunderstorm. At an August council meeting on the issue, dozens of residents recounted their flooding experiences, with many alleging that city staff have rubber-stamped a number of new development projects that have interfered with natural washes and created flooding issues downstream.
The council ordered city staff to come up with a recommendation on how to improve drainage oversight by the end of the year. The initial options the council had considered involved hiring new city staff or creating a list of approved stormwater engineering firms to draft stormwater plans for new development, rather than having developers contracting with the firms directly.
Couch said he plans to recommend hiring two new stormwater engineers to review all new development applications in flood-prone areas. Right now, the city’s Planning and Development Services Department reviews drainage plans and kicks them over to city stormwater engineers only when the plans are unusually complex or technical, he said.
“We will review it and approve or deny it directly,” Couch said.
The city also would hire two new drainage inspectors to proactively monitor waterways north of the Central Arizona Project Canal for potential development encroachments into the area’s system of natural washes and other code violations, he said. Right now, the process is complaint-driven.
Couch said cost estimates for the proposed staff positions have not yet been developed.
The recommendation is tentatively slated for City Council consideration on Dec. 11. It will be up to the council to decide whether to allocate the money to hire new staff.
Nelssen said he hasn’t yet seen the recommendation.
“Whichever recommendation works the best and is most cost effective, that’s what it comes down to,” he said. “If they feel that’s the best way to handle the problem, we’ll have to look at that.”
The important part is that flooding is now high on the city’s list of priorities, he said.
“I’m just glad they’re on it,” Nelssen said. “That’s the best news, is that they’ve seen the problem, and they’re addressing it.”