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Gilbert Road Destroyed

Gilbert Road was destroyed when water from the Verde River came down at 22,000 cubic feet per second (cfps) at one point. The road will remain closed until futher notice.

Recent winter storms in Arizona have been filling the state’s reservoirs, and Salt River Project has increased its water releases. As a result, some road crossings in the Valley have been affected; the unbridged crossing over the Salt River on Gilbert Road has been heavily damaged.

“Both reservoirs on the Verde River, Horseshoe Reservoir and Bartlett Reservoir, are 98 percent full and there’s nowhere else for [the water] to go. So, we pass what comes down as rain and snowmelt into the Verde River and into the Salt River, east of Mesa. From there it builds over Granite Reef Dam and into the normally dry Salt River through the Phoenix area,” said Salt River Project Media Relations Representative Jeffrey Lane.

The culverts underneath Gilbert Road can’t handle any more than about 4,000 cubic feet per second (cfps) of water. “From January 1 through March 7, there has been a total of 98,555 acre-feet (approximately 32 billion gallons) of water released from Granite Reef Dam into the Salt River. If you use 20,000 gallons in a swimming pool for comparison, that would equal 1.6 million swimming pools (just over 16 swimming pools per acre foot),” said Lane. This resulted in the current road damage, which won’t be fixed for another six months or so because more storms are expected in Arizona in the next couple of months.

Gilbert Road north bound was only built to with take about 4,000 cfps, the road was destroyed and SRP is expecting more rain to travel down from the high country.
SRP operates various dams for the Bureau of Reclamation and determines how much water should be released and when. The SRP Water Resources Group manages the water supply years in advance. For instance, if they know there’s a storm coming, they release some water just to be safe. This will create some space for the water that would be coming in from snowmelt and rain.

Since the last water release in 2010, SRP has gone six consecutive years without a water release, which has never happened before. SRP was expecting this year to be a dry year; instead, it turned out to be the opposite. With the extreme drought that has plagued much of the western U.S., the extra water is a good thing.

“Every year our Water Resources Group gets together to plan out the next 11 years, expecting that we’ll have a drought for the next 11 years. We have to store as much water as we can since we do live in the desert,” said Lane.

Stay tuned for Gilbert Road updates.

The debri is washed up over Gilbert Road. The water in the dry Salt River has decreased tremendously.