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October 30, 2014

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Recent heavy flooding in northwest valley hastens work on new water channel

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Steve Marcus

Vehicles turn around as storm runoff floods Grand Teton Drive near Grand Canyon Drive on Sunday, Aug. 25, 2013.

Flooding in the Valley

A double rainbow is shown above homes near El Capitan Way and Grand Teton Drive after a thunderstorm in the northwest part of the Valley Sunday, Aug. 25, 2013. Launch slideshow »

Several storms during an unusually wet monsoon season have caused severe flooding in the northwest valley, prompting Las Vegas city officials to announce Wednesday they’re fast-tracking a flood control project to better handle rains in the future.

Portions of Grand Teton Drive have been closed several times this summer after storms pushed huge amounts of water through the area, causing flash floods and leaving behind a mess of muck and debris washed down from the Spring Mountains.

The hardest hit area has been on Grand Teton Drive between Hualapai Way and Tee Pee Lane, in part because there’s a gap in the region’s system of flood control channels, a result of piecemeal development in the area.

Public works officials had identified the area for improvement, but didn’t think they’d have the funding to finish it for at least five years.

On Wednesday, Councilman Steve Ross announced the city is prioritizing the $6.5 million project because of the recent flooding, meaning it could be finished as soon as early 2015.

Currently, the abrupt end to the flood channel results in water flowing into the surface streets, a problem the new construction will rectify by creating an underground, 6-foot-wide by 6-foot-deep channel box to carry the flow of water.

By prioritizing this project, other planned flood projects could be delayed, but it’s not clear which will be affected, officials said.

Although the heavy flooding and debris were a major inconvenience for residents, Clark County Regional Flood Control District General Manager Gale Fraser said the current flood control measures worked as intended, preventing fatalities and damage to homes.

A rain gauge near Kyle Canyon detention basin, which slows water flowing from the mountains into the northwest valley, recorded 4.1 inches of rain over the course of three hours during the Aug. 25 storm, nearly as much as the valley will typically see in an entire year, he said.

Complicating matters is the damage from July’s Mount Charleston fire, which scorched much of the watershed that typically slows and reduces flow off the mountain. Ash, soot and burned debris from the fire has also repeatedly washed into streets in the northwest valley during several heavy rains this summer, creating a mucky substance that will cost the city about $350,000 in labor and equipment costs to clean up.

“Subdivisions would have been completely destroyed and lives lost,” without the flood control system, Fraser said. “I think today we’d be talking about a presidential disaster declaration and how we were going to rebuild a big part of this community. So the basin did work.”

The recently prioritized project and a second $15 million project installing underground flood channels along Grand Teton Drive between Durango Drive and Rainbow Boulevard are part of a continuing effort to “connect the dots” in the region’s flood control system, which is only about halfway complete, Fraser said.

Funding for the projects comes from the flood control districts .25-cent portion of the sales tax, which is then allocated to municipal public works departments for projects.

“Our system did work, it’s just not complete,” Ross said. “We’re in the process of completing that.

Ross will be hosting a public meeting on Thursday at 6 p.m. at Centennial Hills community center, 6601 N. Buffalo Drive, to update residents on the planned construction and its effects on future flooding.

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