CLIFTON — The folks in Clifton have finally seen their flood gate in action, but nobody’s certain even yet whether or not it will hold back the waters.
After the San Francisco River overran its banks and flooded the community twice in the 1970s and again in 1983, the Army Corps of Engineers and the state of Arizona developed a levee system to serve as flood control. But there was a problem — the levee had to cross State Route 75, which is Clifton’s main street.
So the agencies authorized construction of a huge gate that would be open most of the time, but would be closed whenever the river runs wild again. The gate is a work of art, standing about 12 feet tall and 25 feet across, and designed to resemble the surrounding mountainous landscape. The only time it was put into action, however, was during routine maintenance drills. But on Sept. 15, heavy rains caused the river to rise again, so the gate was closed as a necessary precaution for the first time.
So, did it work?
They’re still not sure. The water level rose, but it was still two feet short of reaching the gate. Therefore, the gate has still never been tested under actual flood conditions.