Gila County supervisors have requested $17 million worth of projects from the federal government, including a study to solve problems associated with Tonto Creek flooding and a plan to relocate part of Houston Mesa Road.
Supervisors picked three projects as top priority — a $3 million sewer expansion to service a new Job Corps site in Globe, a $2 million study for how to best protect residents of local flood-prone creeks and $4.3 million for continuing forest fuel reduction.
Then, they prioritized three road projects, lumping them together as the fourth priority. The top road request was $3 million to study and design a relocation of Houston Mesa Road. Next, they asked for $3 million to pave a portion of Young Road, and last was a request for $2 million to work toward paving Control Road.
Derided by critics as “pork,” supporters say earmarks allow communities to receive funding for projects the federal government might otherwise ignore.
This particular list will be sent to Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick’s office, and some of the project requests will also be sent to Sen. Jon Kyl. Sen. John McCain famously refuses to consider the requests.
Kirkpatrick will pick the projects for which she agrees to help negotiate federal funding among the myriad requests received from throughout the sprawling district.
Most of the amounts requested would help finance portions of ongoing projects.
Ultimately, the county wants to create a bypass for four miles of Houston Mesa Road that crosses the East Verde River twice, raising the road above the stream, and diverting recreation traffic.
The relocation could coordinate with plans to build the Blue Ridge pipeline, decreasing costs.
It would also reduce the water pollution coming from water lapping the dirty undersides of cars.
For Control Road, $2 million would pay for studies and designs to ultimately pave the entire road, creating an easy connection between Highways 87 and 260, and also an escape route in case of wildfire.
County officials have long worked to procure the $13.8 million necessary to pave Young Road, which officials say winter weather makes impassable. Also, they say high numbers of summer travelers make the road impossible to maintain. Officials want the road to serve as an escape route in case of fire.
This year, however, the request amounted to $3 million to pave about three miles. County officials hope for greater success by asking for the money in increments.
Supervisors hope to win money for another project to figure out how to best address the hundreds of residents who live near damaged dikes on the Tonto, Pinto and Pinal creeks.
County officials have discussed potentially relocating people who live in the flood plain because dikes could break even if reconstructed. The $2 million requested would fund a study to determine whether relocation or rebuilding the dikes makes the best long-term solution.
In the Tonto National Forest, county officials want to continue fuel breaks to protect local communities from wildfire.
Of the total $4.3 million requested, $2 million would continue the firebreaks started around Payson, Pine and Strawberry. The rest would fund studies and breaks for communities on the east side of the Mogollon Rim, which have limited protection from wildfire.