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Washes and Flood plains

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.

Hilly 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.

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