Monday, September 22, 2014

SWRS Survives the Flood, But Can It Survive the Road Closure?

The Southwest Research Station finds itself in a difficult position, caught between the financial demands of its parent company, the American Museum of Natural History, and the US Forest Service, which is enforcing a road closure that will likely exclude the station's workers and guests from access into Cave Creek Canyon via the damaged road.

I should wait until after Wednesday's meeting to report on the USFS closure policy: it should be clarified then. Right now I'm getting conflicting information about who will be allowed to travel on the main canyon road.

Dining room at the Southwest Research Station yesterday, completely intact after the flood (Photos by Narca)

The research station's big problem is loss of revenue. They are having to cancel some groups, and are trying to maintain others due to come through October. The big fire hit in 2011, and now the big flood. Their fear is that the American Museum of Natural History will decide that the research station isn't worth the trouble, particularly if the station fails to break even financially.

Not only the flood, but also the road closure, will most definitely impact the station's bottom line. It appears that the Forest Service will insist that the station's workers and guests travel an alternative route through Paradise and up East Turkey Creek, then back into Cave Creek Canyon from the top. Not only does this route add an extra 45 minutes of travel in each direction, but the small cars of a number of the station's workers can't ford the stream crossings along that route. Today and tomorrow, the SWRS van is meeting its workers in Portal, and ferrying them to work via the Turkey Creek route. However, this is not a viable solution. It imposes too great a hardship. In addition, East Turkey Creek itself is prone to wash-outs, and people staying at the research station could easily become stranded by the closure. In an emergency, that would be disastrous. The proposed alternative could be more dangerous than the damaged road. And then there are the station's guests to consider....

SWRS is vital to Portal's well-being. The station is also important to researchers and students from around the world. It may be time to tell our representative, Ron Barber, and the Arizona Senators that we need help here. After Wednesday's meeting, we'll be in a better position to know exactly what help to request from them!

Cabins at the Southwest Research Station

How does SWRS look after the flood? Fantastic.

The main  problems have been lack of electricity, which Columbus Electric handled as soon as they could, and the continuing lack of phone and fiber optic cable for communications.

Boiled water from the swimming pool was used for drinking.

When the flood happened, 35 people were staying at SWRS. Electricity went out, and the supply of bottled water for drinking only lasted a day and a half. After that, the station boiled water taken from the swimming pool for drinking. Very soon, Dawn Wilson, the station's director, was able to traverse the road with Ray Mendez, and she brought back the needed generator and most essential supplies. The station's guests were evacuated as soon as it was possible to do so safely.

The footbridge from the dining area looks unaffected.

The buildings and grounds are in great shape. Indeed the only small bit of damage that I saw was to the lower footbridge, where a portion of the planking is gone, but which is mostly intact.

The lower footbridge across Cave Creek

And the endangered Chiricahua Leopard Frogs? They are still here, as they are in the ponds at Paul and Linda's house and Cave Creek Ranch.

Leopard Frog (Pen-and-ink drawing by Narca)

1 comment:

  1. I so appreciate your updates. Fingers, toes, and eyes crossed that our wonderful SWRS stays open