KINGMAN – A release of water through the Alamo Dam in March could cause headaches for off-roaders in Mohave and La Paz counties.
Off-road enthusiasts are concerned the planned water release in early March will occur at the peak of the off-road season and possibly damage the Arizona Peace Trail.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to flush water through the Alamo Dam and into the Bill Williams River. The Peace Trail crosses the Army Corps’ project area west of Planet Ranch and again at Swansea, approximately 33 miles east of Parker.
“We don’t know what damage the flooding will do to the road system,” said J.C. Sanders, Arizona Peace Trail chairman. “The biggest issue is that we don’t have a firm start date in order to close the trail. We’ve got people coming from as far away as Poland to ride the trail. It’s unfortunate that we can’t notify them far enough in advance so that they can change their plans.”
The trail, a 750-mile loop, starts in Bullhead City going into Yuma, running generally along the Colorado River, then east through Salome and Wikieup before circling back to Bullhead. The route is located on city, county, state and federal land as it crosses Mohave, La Paz and Yuma counties.
While the ridership numbers of the various segments of the Peace Trail are not recorded, the Army Corps estimates that 3,000 – 5,000 off-road vehicles use the trail system each year.
The primary reason for the release of water is to remove approximately 16 cubic yards of sediment from the dam’s sill – or its seal with the bulkhead gate – and to draw the lake elevation down to provide safe diving conditions to complete other maintenance objectives.
“There are a lot of people riding the Peace Trail almost every day this time of year,” Sanders said. “Without having a notice of trail closure, once you start and get to that point, with all of your hotel reservations lined up, you are almost committed not to be able to go any farther to your next hotel. A closure will cost tourist dollars.”
Holly Irwin, La Paz County supervisor and liaison to the Peace Trail planning efforts, also is concerned.
“If this impedes OHV use in certain areas, areas that attract people to come to Arizona, it could really hurt revenue that is brought into La Paz and Mohave counties,” Irwin said. “I understand the need, but we are trying to determine if this is something that absolutely has to be done right now.”
If forced to detour around the affected areas, Sanders said, riders would have an additional 100 miles of travel time, often causing them to arrive well after dark to their next overnight stay.
“Riding in the dark creates safety issues,” Sanders added. “There is a lot of the trail that you need to see the rocks, the holes and the turns to navigate safely. We understand the requirement the Army Corps has, but what we want is a 30-day notice before the water level is expected to rise, so that we can notify the world that the trail will be closed.”
Ideally, off-road aficionados would like to see the planned release at Alamo Dam start after May 1.
“This way we could get into the area after our season is over, during summer, and make repairs to the Planet Ranch Road if needed,” Sanders said.