04-11-2003, 02:45 PM #1
Utah Community In High danger due to Fires
Spring Lake is facing high risks
By Sharon Haddock
Deseret News staff writer
SPRING LAKE, Utah County — A report by a state geologist says Spring Lake is at "high and immediate risk" of a storm-related disaster, the result of a wildfire and mudslide that have hit the area over the past two years.
Gullies from last year's mudslide and a lack of vegetation could funnel more mud and floods on this home and others in the Spring Lake area, county officials say.
Stuart Johnson, Deseret News
The "risk represents the greatest risk to life, houses and roads that has yet been observed in Utah since wildfires first seriously impacted the Wasatch Front urban area in 1988," according to the report recently given to Utah County commissioners.
So what do county officials plan to do? That question remains unanswered. Commissioners say tight budgets make it difficult to deal with the problem.
"It's an issue we've been concerned about for a while," Commissioner Gary Herbert said. "It's a runoff area that's been compounded by the fire. It's a significant problem."
Herbert wants housing construction halted in the Spring Lake area — but because the development was approved years ago, developers have a legal right to continue to build.
"We're not the ones that have permitted housing," he said, "but clearly it falls under our jurisdiction."
The risk-factor report was prepared by Bob Rasely, a geologist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Steve Rogers, an engineer.
Rasely and Rogers, who evaluated the area in January, said at least $300,000 needs to be spent now on dikes, an emergency-debris basin and water-spreading fences to prevent a potential $3 million in damage. Utah County needs to match the $300,000 available from the state with 20 percent in local funds.
The potential for new disaster comes on the heels of two previous disasters: An 8,021-acre wildfire that burned for 32 days in August and September of 2001 and last year's Dry Mountain mudslide.
The fire — dubbed the Mollie Fire by fire officials — burned deeply and slowly through brush, grass and trees. And last year's mud flow cut a channel up to 10 feet deep.
Even average storms could set off devastating debris flows, Rasely said in the report.
Paul Hawker, a Utah County public works engineer, said Spring Lake, about 20 miles south of Provo, has 30 to 50 homes.
One home was severely damaged during the 2002 mudslide and several others threatened — yet new homes have gone up right in the slide's path, said Clyde Naylor, Utah County public works director.
Naylor said the county would like to help but has little or no money to spare. He said the county can provide labor and engineering expertise as an in-kind contribution to the needed $75,000 in matching funds.
Commissioner Jerry Grover said the county is concerned about protecting the county road that links Spring Lake to the rest of the area.
Grover said the danger isn't really from runoff since the drought has left little in the mountains, but a microburst or heavy rainfall could set off real trouble.
At some Spring Lake homes, fears of another disaster run high. "Yeah, we're worried," said Greg Saunders, son of Dale Saunders, whose home was damaged by the mudslide.Front line since 1983 and still going strong
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