When it rains, it pours — or so they say.
That’s not so good when it comes to the eroding banks of a lake — but pretty good when it comes to getting federal stimulus money.
Payson received another bit of good news recently when it comes to setting the hook in more federal stimulus money — in this case a $35,000 federal grant to come up with a plan to prevent the ongoing erosion of the banks of lakes in Green Valley Park.
The grant will finance a one-year study of a problem that could cost millions to solve.
Granted, the $35,000 grant represents stimulus chump change compared to the town’s $10.5-million grant to help build the Blue Ridge pipeline or a $3 million grant to finish a sewage system on the Tonto Apache Reservation, which will provide water for a lake near the Payson Event Center.
However, in this case state officials charged with doling out the federal economic stimulus grants actually called the town and asked if they had any application for some leftover money from its Water Infrastructure Finance Authority of Arizona Fund — the same honey pot that financed the Blue Ridge grant.
As it happens, the town council at the same meeting last week got a report on the sale of millions in bonds for the Blue Ridge pipeline. The bonding consultants said the terms of the loan through the federal stimulus grant saved the town a lot more than just the $4-million in “forgiven” loan money. The town got a 2.8 percent interest rate and other savings that all added up to a gift of about $9.7 million of the $10.5 million in the total grant.
The announcement provided the latest windfall for Payson in the federal stimulus package lottery. Payson has so far gotten about $800,000 per resident in federal stimulus money, with millions of dollars of additional grant requests still pending.
The Blue Ridge grant package included more than 1,000 pages of documentation, which the town staff assembled in record time. As a result, Payson got the Blue Ridge grant approved before any other local infrastructure grants in the state — which could explain why state officials turned to the town when they found the leftover water funds they had to spend in a hurry.
Fortunately, the town had on hand its application package from previous, unsuccessful efforts to solve a problem that had been getting steadily worse since 1996 when the town completed the chain of lakes in Green Valley Park.
The town built the lakes as the last step in treating water from its sewage treatment plant. The lakes constructed around the natural drainage path of American Gulch hold the nearly drinkable water from the town’s wastewater treatment plant, creating a major park complex and storing the water for use irrigating park lands and golf course land.
The application for the grant observes “when the lakes were designed, a concern was identified in the potential for bank erosion. However, due to limited funding and a necessity for quick completion of the project, only minimal bank stabilization efforts were able to be employed.”
Sure enough, even the small waves created by wind across the surface of the lakes lapped on the shoreline. The angle of those slopes proved perfect for the baby waves to begin cutting into the bank.
In addition, since the lakes lie along a natural drainage route, big rains often sent water sluicing into the lakes, hastening the effect of the waves on the slope of the lakes.
As a result, the lake waters have cut back into the bank 10 or 15 feet in places and now threaten to cause sidewalks and bike paths to collapse into the growing hole.
In addition, that erosion has dragged a substantial amount of sediment into the shallow lakes, hastening the day when the town will have to dredge them out to maintain the capacity.
Town officials also worry that this erosion might also be dumping pollutants into the lake and contributing to fish-killing blooms of algae during the warm summer months.