Well we may not get much rain, but when we do the rain is heavy and has
to flow somewhere. In the more mountainous areas the water flows
very rapidly through ever larger generally very rocky channels down into
the flat areas. The flatter areas are characterized by larger more
open washes that are generally sandy. These washes will generally
work their way into a river such as the hassayampa and work their way
down toward the Gila River and eventually the Colorado.
areas (like Wickenburg, and Yarnell)
There is no confusing the sandy wash as anything other than a
flood way, but where people get into trouble is judging just how far
over the banks of a wash the water might venture in a major flood event.
and it is not just a problem of the water overflowing the banks of a
wash, but sometime a problem of the banks eroding. Since most of
our areas is very hilly it is very easy to see washes and identify areas
of concern, but the very flat areas are a different story.
Flat areas (like Wittmann, and Forepaugh)
In the very flat areas there are still washes which are very
identifiable, but judging how far over the banks water might travel is
not so easy to distinguish. There is another type of flood plain
that comes up in the flat areas also. There are flat areas of land
that are far from a flood way of a wash, but are so flat the rain water
does not drain quickly. So in many respects this is the opposite
problem because instead of flowing water you have standing water.
These areas prone to standing water will also have a flood plain
designation, so obviously it is work noting what kind of flood plain you
are dealing with.
The usefulness of a flood plain
Just because an area is designated as a flood plain does not
make it useless to you as a home buyer. In hilly areas for example
washes are very common and very scenic. If you have a larger lot,
the odds are high that you will at least have a small wash on your
property, and you will likely enjoy it as a scenic part of your
landscape. There are many larger lots around this area where there
is a high home site, and then a good portion of the lot that is low,
with a large wash flowing through. This kind of lot is attractive
in many ways, because the home site is well out of the flood plain, and
yet affords the scenic view of the wash, and most importantly allows the
home owner to have the privacy of a much larger lot without paying the
price tag that would come with a completely usable lot.
In flatter areas the banks of a wash that might be designated as a 50 or
100 year flood plain my be perfectly suitable areas for less permanent
fixtures like Horse corrals, or just yards and gardens. The other
think I like very much about being in proximity to a wash is that they
frequently make for an excellent trail for a Horse or an ATV.
Areas prone to standing water
I want to address again the areas that are prone to standing
water. In many cases these are perfectly usable plots of land, and
frequently make great best horse properties. Imagine for example
that an engineer determines that a lot is prone to standing water that
could get as deep as 2 inches during a 50 year flood event. So to
stay out of the flood plain you must build your home at least 2 inches
above ground level. So lets say you build your driveway, storage
shed and everything else that high, and every few years an inch of water
builds up on your landscape for a hour after a big rain. I hope
you get my point, that it may not be much of a hassle at all, and may
allow you to own a level usable property at price which you would not
otherwise been able to acquire.
An interesting story in Peeples Valley
I don't have all the details, but do want to point out another
interesting situation in Peeples Valley as I understand it: I
think it was in the late 60's when development of the peeples valley
subdivision began. The requirements at the time in Yavapai county
did not require the developer to conduct a floodplain study, which they
did not. There is a small creek that flows down through the valley
and in building the subdivision they redirected the creek (today it is
more of a wash) through the subdivision. So when the county came
along to assess the flood plain they didn't look at the creek as it is
today, they pretty much just looked at the original path of the creek
and included most of the valley along what would be the banks if the
creek were still there. So today nearly the whole valley is
classified as flood plain even through the wash is moved and the areas
has never flooded. A property owner in that area can higher an
engineer to to an elevation certification, and so the situation is much
like it is with the areas prone to standing water. I have observed
that for the lots near the creek, the floor of the home usually has to
be a couple inches above ground level, and for others they may find that
they are not in a flood plain at all. The problem is that the cost
of an engineer is much higher than the cost of flood insurance.
For example an engineer might charge $2000.00 versus flood insurance
that is $40 / month. Considering that this is an areas where lot
prices have just began approaching $30,000 an engineer is a big
percentage of the cost to buy or build, and most people have just chosen
to pay for flood insurance.