Clifton floodgate test a complete success

Walt Mares Photo/Gila Herald: A Clifton Public works loader begins closing a huge flood gate during a Sept. 17 exercise to ensure the gate can easily be closed and opened. A chain was attached to the loader and gate to pull the gate closed. At right, a Clifton firefighter observes the exercise from his perch from atop a floodgate wall.

 Exercise accomplished in record time

By Walt Mares

“They’re getting faster and faster at it.”                       

Paul Easley, FMI Emergency Services

CLIFTON – Easley was referring to the time it took to close the huge floodgates along the San Francisco River in Clifton. He timed the gate’s closing at four minutes.

That has to be a record, according to a bystander familiiar with the procedure. Public Works Director Jerry Valenzuela said overall it took eight minutes – to close and reopen the larger gate to vehicle traffic on Coronado Blvd. (U.S. Highway 191). The operation went smoothly. No hitches whatsoever.

Walt Mares Photo/Gila Herald: A Clifton Public Works loader moves toward a giant floodgate to begin pulling the gate closed. Clifton firefighters are perched atop walls of the floodgate system. They were positioned to pull pins from the gate’s top. The pins help hold the gate open or closed. The exercise was conducted Tuesday, Sept.17.

The efforts of the Clifton Fire Department and Public Works made it so. Add to that the Clifton Police Department personnel who were there to ensure there were no problems with keeping traffic at bay while the floodgates were tested. 

Easley, from FMI Emergency Services, was also on hand in the event that the department’s services were needed. Fortunately, they were not. Clifton Town Manager Rudy Perez, who observed the drill, lauded the coordinated efforts of the various departments and personnel it involved. 

Two yellow loaders stood by as preparations began to conduct the test, which involves making sure the gates can easily be closed in the event of a flood or a near-flood. The gates keep floodwater from pouring into South Clifton as happened in the Great Flood of 1983. Some of the firefighters kicked things off by climbing ladders to the top of the 20-foot-high walls of the floodgates. They did so to remove the pins at the top of the wall that help hold the gates in place.

It was quite obvious that those who did the climbing are in pretty good physical condition.  They stood atop the wall until the gate testing was completed so they could put the very big pins back in place. 

Walt Mares Photo/Gila Herald: A Clifton firefighter is silhouetted against a bright blue morning sky as he stands atop a floodgate wall during a Sept. 17 exercise to close and reopen floodgates gates along the San Francisco River.

Meanwhile, other firefighters assisted public works in preparing the bottom of the gate’s closure. The gates bottom must match up with the groove that lies across the highway to ensure no floodwater leaks through. It is the groove that motorists cross and causes a slight bump in the roadway. 

Public Works folks worked with firefighters to attach a chain to the gate and one of the loaders. As it pulled with the attached chain, the machine had no problem in swinging the big gate closed. Nor was there any problem in reopening the gate. 

Prior to closing the main gate, public works personnel used another loader to close a smaller gate atop the railroad track that runs through there. Also closed with even more ease was a small gate for use by pedestrians. 

Valenzuela said he was quite pleased with the performance of his work crew and very much appreciated help from the firefighters. He also acknowledged gratitude to the Clifton Police for its presence at the scene. 

The gate-testing exercise is conducted yearly. There have never been any major problems and this year’s record-setting quickness shows that Clifton is prepared to protect South Clifton if the San Francisco River ever jumps its banks again. The San Francisco River is one of the eight fastest running rivers in North America.   

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