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Planners of the BHGC Flood Control Project in the Phoenix area aimed for a rustication theme, evident in the two-barrel flume structure over the channel. Photos: John Lizvey
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Workers check progress on the multiuse trail that runs the entire length of the corridor.
Interagency Cooperation

“The projects we're seeing are usually multi-jurisdictional, because water knows no bounds—it starts somewhere and it flows depending on the watershed,” said Mushtaq. “The watersheds don't follow any city limits. When you deal with three or four agencies on this type of project, it becomes a very difficult task. You try to make everybody happy, while producing an optimum design that will keep your cost within budget and still result in a successful product. Coordination and communication are essential.”

The cost-sharing partners in this project were the Flood Control District of Maricopa County and the cities of Phoenix and Glendale. As an added complexity, management for the central Arizona water supplier also had an interest. Known as the Salt River Project, the supplier delivers domestic and irrigation water to customers through a 131 -mile network of open canals. The planned BHGC drainage canal would have to tunnel underneath their irrigation canal at two separate locations. There were many entities involved, with diverse interests ranging from floodplain elimination to park development.

“Partnering was really critical, in the way we worked together,” said R. J. Cardin, deputy director of the Glendale Park and Recreation Department's central district. “The Flood Control District was very open to the concept of multiple uses. Flood control was their primary concern, but they also took recreation into account. I think that was critical: the technical folks were open to looking at how we can design this facility so it has some aesthetic qualities.” In fact, one section of the BHGC channel would be located near Glendale's Grand Canal Linear Park. Glendale officials decided to landscape that section of the channel and make it a mile-long, 300-foot-wide addition to the park.

“It has been very exciting to consider these other alternatives,” said Mushtaq. “No one on the team—not the design engineers, the planners, or the public—has expressed any reservations about going ‘softer.'”

Practical accommodations also were designed into the channel, such as making the side slopes gentle enough to allow mowing equipment to groom the grass, and to let people walk out safely when water begins to accumulate. The dimensions of the channel change as it meanders through the park. “The only linear part about it, really, is the corridor,” said Minch. “With everything else, we've tried to give it variety and visual interest.”

Costs and Benefits

“I realize that on a project like this, it's messier to include citizen input,” said Clark. “It's also more costly and more time consuming to do so. But in the long run, you get a project that not only does what it was designed to do, but one that the citizens will buy in to and embrace as well.”

Extensive public outreach is not the only factor that raises the price of this project over that of a bare-bones concrete canal. Landscaping and park equipment increase the cost by roughly 10%, but results make it worthwhile. Public buy-in is not the only added benefit. Attractive, convenient recreation areas raise property values. Trails and parklands link communities and enhance quality of life.

Being located next to the Grand Canal Linear Park even adds appeal to the Arizona Cardinals' new football stadium. “We think that was one of the selling points for getting the 2008 Super Bowl here—there's a beautiful park setting right out the back door of the stadium,” said Cardin.

Hall is an Albuquerque-based freelance writer.