Future Of The Berneil Channel In PV

In the next few years Paradise Valley residents could see an $11 million rejuvenation project for the Berneil Channel. This project would make the channel (also referred to as a canal) more efficient for carrying water, drastically reducing the possibility of flooding the area. The renovation would also create a landscaped, multi-use area for runners, walkers, and the general public to access the channel.

Scott Buchanan, a hydrologist with Stanley Consultants (the firm working on the project) and Town Engineer Bill Mead held a meeting on September 27, 2008. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the suggested Berneil Channel drainage improvements and obtain feedback from the community about the proposed project.

Considered by many to be a scar on the beauty of the area, the Berneil Channel starts at the Scottsdale/Paradise Valley border and works its way south eventually flowing into the Indian Bend Wash. The channel (lined with cracking 30-year-old concrete, dirt and a retaining wall) is a matter of concern for the town as its water carrying ability is not effective. The retaining wall was last breached by raging floodwaters in 1993, damaging nearby homes.

The majority of the cost of the project will come from the Town of Paradise Valley’s General Fund, although the Town is looking for cooperation with the Flood Control District of Maricopa County (FCDMC) and the City of Scottsdale.

“The FCDMC has many projects in the queue, so we may need to compete with other municipalities for funds,” Mead said. “We have invited Scottsdale to get involved, which they have been receptive to.” Mead added that if the project was started in the summer when the new budget starts, the Town would be able to spread the cost out over two budget years rather than paying for it all at once.

Scott Buchanan explained that water carrying capacity is rated in three separate denotations: two year water surface, 10 year water surface, and 100 year water surface. These terms are used to describe how much water a channel can hold without overflowing.

“The ideal objective would be to get [Berneil to hold] a 100 year water surface,” Buchanan explained. “Berneil has no 100, an occasional 10, and in some cases not even a two.” This means that most parts of the channel can hold enough water for normal rainstorms, but even a little more water than usual could cause a flood.

Buchanan explained that the current retaining wall, made of dirt, could fail because it is not reinforced. “The channel capacity can be exceeded and has been exceeded,” Buchanan cautioned. “Hydraulically, when we design channels we aim for the 100 year water surface.” Buchanan explained that under certain weather conditions the channel would flood and cause a large amount of damage to area homes. In one simulation Buchanan showed flood water put several residential city blocks under water.

Most citizens agreed that they preferred increasing the channel to a 100 year surface in addition to creating a path with landscaping and water fountains. “I would rather go for the top one,” Mead said. “If you are going to do it, do it right.”

Story Written By:
Ian Rogers – Student At ASU
Walter Cronkite School Of Journalism

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