Residents along Six Shooter Canyon Road have tangled with Gila County administrators and Supervisor Tim Humphrey’s office for the past few months over a project that is expected to remove a number of large trees from the wash that parallels the road.
There may have already been 18 to 30 trees removed, according to Floyd Krank, who has led the charge to protect the trees being removed in response to the massive flooding in Globe-Miami last July in the wake of the Telegraph and Mescal fires that ravaged the Pinals.
The County has been working with engineering firm J.E. Fuller to create a flood mitigation plan that includes shoring up and clearing streambeds along Six Shooter Canyon Road, Icehouse Canyon Road, Russell Gulch and Bloody Tanks Wash in Miami.
Construction is slated to begin in the fall, after the monsoons have passed and is expected to be finished by next summer, before the next monsoon season begins.
The projects are being funded by about $13 million through a 2021 supplemental appropriation for the Department of Forestry for wildfire management, as well as a $10 million grant from the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), according to Gila County Emergency Manager Carl Melford, who touched on the project at a June 7 post-fire and flooding Globe-Miami Town Hall meeting at Miami High School.
But residents along Six Shooter Canyon Road are frustrated with the part of the plan that will remove several more large trees along the banks that they say will “denude” the area, reducing the value of their homes and making the properties unlivable.
Dickison Drive parallels Six Shooter Canyon Road between E Abiquiu Trail and Thetford, a private road that was the location of what neighbors say was an illegal bridge that may have exacerbated some of last year’s flooding.
The bridge was removed after the floods, and now the County is preparing to clear out vegetation and stabilize the sides of the wash with concrete.
While the County has said it will not remove trees from private property through eminent domain, there are areas where it already has easements. Dickison is a small access road for a handful of properties, and is one of those places controlled by the County.
At the June 7 meeting, Krank took the opportunity to address county representatives directly.
“They’re talking about repairing some road washouts that took place in our area five years ago when I brought it to the county’s attention about an illegal bridge that was downstream from my property,” he told the gathered officials. “What they’re proposing right now in our area is removing a tremendous amount of the trees up Six Shooter Canyon.”
He added that as yet, no one from the County has gone to the property despite multiple requests.
Krank says he had five feet of water and debris during the big flood, but in subsequent floods last year, once the bridge was removed, it did not happen again.
Dickison Drive is a short, tree-lined lane on Six Shooter Canyon Road between the Gila Pueblo campus of Eastern Arizona College and Besh Ba Gowah Archeological Park.
The larger cottonwoods there are decades, if not hundreds of years old.
“I have heartburn about it,” says Ira Dickison, whose family has owned property there since 1964 and gave the county easement in order to build the access road.
Dickison is concerned that once the trees are gone, the value of his property will go down significantly, a feeling shared by several of his neighbors.
At a June 29 public forum the County hosted to provide details of the project, eight-year Dickison Drive resident Margo Flores voiced her displeasure via phone to Humphrey and county administration.
She said her property has gained at least $100,000 in value since she purchased it, but the value is in jeopardy because of the plan.
“The only reason I bought this property is because of the seclusion, because of the foliage,” she said. “My huge concern is, if you take away all the natural greenery and what attracts us to these places in the first place it’s going to reduce the value on my property and I’m not happy about it.”
Flores, like others, believe they have not been consulted in a meaningful way about what is going to happen.
The project is being designed and will be completed by J.E. Fuller, a hydrology and geomorphology engineering firm that operates all over the state.
According to Joe Loverich, who represented the company at the June 29 presentation, the trees must be removed to stabilize the sides of the creek with riprap—strategically placed rocks that help create a foundation—and shotcrete, a “blown slurry” that will cover the banks with added steel mesh for stability. Several bridges along the creek will also be shored up in order to handle more water and debris.
Loceridge says clearing the wash is not necessarily to increase capacity, but to help avoid future “scour,” or erosion.
“We love our riparian areas, because there’s not a lot of them,” he explained. “We’re trying to limit our impact to the trees, but in certain areas, some of the trees have to come down to put this in.”
He added that the county will not exercise eminent domain and take property it does not own, but since the county has an easement on Dickison, it can move forward with the work there.
From the county’s perspective, trees are important but protecting lives and property is the priority.
Recently retired Gila County Assistant Manager Homero Vela weighed in on the project just days before his retirement.
“We have to decide what we want to do: protect trees? Or do we want to protect life?” he posited. “Our decision is basically that we want to save lives. … But when the trees get in the way of saving lives, we’ve got an easy, quick answer for you.”
The project still needs to get federal permits, but plans are nearly complete for work to begin this fall.
Toward the end of the June 29 meeting, Krank hinted that the issue is far from over in his eyes.
“If this thing gets tied up in litigation, you will have to prove that it increased the flows below for the purpose of making it better,” he said. “And you won’t be able to do it.”
Journalist, writer and editor who has worked for community newspapers for more than 15 years. After four years at Davis-Monthan AFB and a few years living in Tucson, moved to California to find his fortune. He is happy to be back in Arizona, in the mountains he loves.