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|Seeking prosperity, finding a problem: Kevin Rudd looks to go with the flow|
|Written by Luke Money|
|Thursday, 15 September 2011 04:02|
Kevin Rudd steps out of his truck in Carr Canyon, his $200 hiking boots crunching on the loose rock underfoot. He reaches into the backseat and belts on a short dagger. (Because he forgot his gun, he says.) Slinging a bag over his shoulder he begins the mountain trek he makes every weekday.
Like thousands of pioneers before him, Rudd came to Tombstone looking for prosperity. What he found was a town in trouble.
Two aqueducts. One thousand plus people who depend on them. Zero water.
This summer’s Monument Fire ripped through Carr and Miller canyons in the Huachuca Mountains and subsequent landslides wreaked havoc on the town’s water lifelines. A chance meeting with Mayor Jack Henderson, and emergency funding from Gov. Jan Brewer later, Rudd became Tombstone’s $50,000 man.
A line of corroded pipe snakes its way into the mountains, its very existence and functionality indicative of the “town too tough to die.” For 130 years, the iron and nickel pipes have pumped water more than 30 miles from the mountain springs to town, using only gravity.
“This system is really a historical marvel,” Rudd says, his eyes scanning a pipe section.
The pipe eventually leads to an anachronistic sight: A tarp, lashed over a concrete collection tank. Rudd’s eyes light up as he goes to look into the tank, where water waits to flow into the pipes.
When Rudd first went into the mountains, this same tank was filled to the brim, not with water, but with dirt and sediment. A few days of arduous digging with his coworker, Mike Kern, and the tank was clear.
Then the rains came. Then the landslides came. Days of work, gone in a twinkling.
“So,” Rudd says. “We did it again.”
Now Carr Canyon’s water flow is protected by a collection of cloth and tangled wire, looking more like a MacGyver contraption than an engineering solution in a disaster area. But, as Rudd notes over the audible gurgle of water sloshing in the tank, it’s working.
At Miller Canyon, however, the sights are not quite so welcoming.
The road to Miller winds through the mountains, mountains which are dotted with blackened trees and vegetation, a stark reminder of the cataclysmic events Rudd was hired to clean up after.
The truck bumps over a wash area, prompting Rudd to look outside.
“Man … they had a major flow event through here…,” he trails off, seemingly considering the implications of his statement.
The walk up to the work area does nothing to allay his fears. Portions of the trail, smooth days earlier, are covered with sediment, loose rocks jutting up irregularly.
Most concerning, though, no water. The flow is blocked upstream.
With every step there is more evidence of Rudd’s fears. Sides of the canyon are bowed inward, cut by a sudden swell.
He stops as the work area comes into view. A low, whistling intake of breath. A string of muttered expletives. His and Kern’s work is gone. The rain and following flooding has washed away every vestige of their labor. Rudd says only a massive amount of water, he estimates a flow of 500 feet a second, could have done this.
Rudd tramps upstream, his boots splashing through the trickle of water that determinedly forges a new path through piles of debris. He reaches a small fall, where the water trickles down a series of rocks. Placing his bag nearby he cups his hands in the stream, catching the water as it falls.
“This is the freshest water you will ever find,” he says, sipping the water from his hands. “This is what I’m here to do, to get this water 30 miles to Tombstone.”
Rudd says there is no timeline for finishing the project, but that ongoing temporary repairs will continue until February. As for the damage in Miller Canyon, Rudd knows exactly what to do.
“Do it again,” he says. “It might take a couple of weeks, but we’ll do it.”