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Homes in North Salt Lake landslide area see new cracks, movement

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NORTH SALT LAKE — Experts have been "detecting movement again" in the area of a devastating landslide that destroyed a North Salt Lake home in 2014, the Utah Department of Natural Resources said Tuesday.

The Utah Geological Survey, which is part of that agency, is working with the city of North Salt Lake to monitor the hill's movement.

A home at 739 Parkway Drive was destroyed in a substantial slide on Aug. 5, 2014. The newly detected movement is in the same area, according to Gregg Beuhkelman, a landslide project geologist for the Utah Geological Survey.

Some of the affected terrain has moved about 42 inches since November, Beuhkelman said. He said the state was monitoring the landmass, but has been especially attentive at the scene since getting calls from worried neighbors on Jan. 15.

"(I) saw a lot of things that were concerning — not, 'Oh my gosh,' but concerning," he said.

“We’ve been out there last week and, sure enough, with our survey marks out there we could see over 4 feet of movement both horizontally, as well as vertically,” UGS Director Rick Allis said. “You can see the wall that was put in to try and stabilize it being pushed away and pipelines that were put there to try and drain water out of it being ruptured.”

Officials also confirmed two small slope failures on the hill in April 2016. The 2014 slide also threatened four other homes and damaged the Eagleridge Tennis and Swim Club. Part of one of the club's retaining walls has been damaged by the moving terrain this month, according to neighbors. That damage could be seen Tuesday.

The 42 inches of movement is a significantly faster pace than 4 inches of slippage between spring and fall of last year, Beuhkelman said.

"There were 2 feet of snow on this (hill) and it melted in two days and ... it all went into the slope," he said. "When you raise the groundwater levels on a slope, that increases the instability. And I think that's what happened on this slope."

Rick Allis from @utahgeological says they are detecting movement again at the N. Salt Lake landslide area. Working with city to monitor. — Utah DNR (@UtahDNR) January 24, 2017

If additional snowfall melts rapidly, problems could worsen, he added.

"When it melts fast and starts percolating into the ground, that's when you start having problems," Beuhkelman said.

Ken Leethan, city manager for North Salt Lake, said a drainage pipe on the hill was broken in the recent movement. The recent events are of concern, but it's not time to panic, he said Tuesday.

"There is some anxiety among residents, there's no question about that," Leethan said. "And they have reason to have that concern. ... But the city believes that residents are safe and there's no need to have people (relocate) or not live in their homes."

The city reported last April that most of the landslide area had been repaired and stabilized, but that the bottom of the affected slope had not been fixed due to ongoing lawsuits arising from the slide.

Eagleridge Tennis and Swim Club has resisted proposals to build a buttress at the bottom, claiming it would further encroach on their property, some of which was deemed unusable following the slide. The city has claimed that a buttress is essential to complete needed repairs on the hill.

"There is some repair work that still needs to be done on the slide before we can really finish our work here," Leethan said. "And until that happens, the slide is going to keep moving a little bit."

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Brad Ferreira, president of Eagleridge Tennis and Swim Club, declined to comment on the recently detected movement, citing ongoing litigation.

Lawsuits between North Salt Lake, the club, the developer as well as residents and utility companies, remain unresolved. The litigation largely revolves around which parties are responsible to pay for damages and repairs.

Neighbor Aubrey Harrison lives directly above the slide area. She said she feels her home's position is relatively safe, but she's nonetheless disappointed that there has been so much disagreement over repairs.

"Everyone is pointing a different finger at someone else. ... We're all just kind of stuck waiting to see what happens, said Harrison, who has attended multiple meetings concerning the condition of the hill. "I don't feel like you really get a solid answer from anyone. It just kind of turns into more of a blame game than any resolution."

Harrison believes she and others in the area have grown somewhat complacent recently about the stability of the terrain, making the new shift in the hill all the more worrisome.

"I think after (the) slide, everyone was really upset, nervous, scared. ... We kind of got a place of comfort (that) now it's safe, so this is all very concerning."

Paul Evans, whose backyard partially fell away during the 2014 slide, said his frustration is mounting because of incomplete repair work at the bottom of the hill.

"The most important part is the bottom buttress that holds everything else up and that hasn't been repaired," Evans told the Deseret News/said Tuesday. "Until they do it, it's going to keep moving."

Contributing: Nicole Vowell, Brianna Bodily, Liesl Nielsen

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