A La Verkin subdivision is slowly sliding away, and over-irrigation may be to blame

Landscaping and plant life are the last signs of two homes that were lost to an ongoing landslide in La Verkin, Washington County, on Wednesday.

Landscaping and plant life are the last signs of two homes that were lost to an ongoing landslide in La Verkin, Washington County, on Wednesday. ( Ammon Teare, St. George News)



Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

LA VERKIN, Washington County — Stephen Bird used to have neighbors across the street: two houses with longtime residents and views of the surrounding area from the edge of the La Verkin Bench.

The neighbors, their houses and even the land that once supported it all is gone – lost in a landslide that continues to eat away at the hill and threaten the future of the Overlook subdivision.

"When a person buys, like myself, we buy thinking that all the geological studies have been done in good faith," Bird said. "Now, 15-16 years later for me, I may lose my home. If they (the city) don't mitigate the sliding, then it's kind of in jeopardy. I don't know. I have a lot of worry."

The first signs of trouble came in 2005 when the back patio of the home at 275 N. 560 West started to shift and the ground beneath it gave way. The homeowner, Bob Harris, used horizontal and vertical stabilizing piers to shore up the ground beneath his home and stop the slide.

It was evident then that an abundance of groundwater was weakening the hillside along that stretch of 560 West, according to Harris' statements and those of public works employees at a Nov. 2020 public meeting.

After apparently drying up, there were no more problems until March 2020, shortly after city irrigation resumed for the year. Throughout 2020, the land continued sliding beneath Harris' home and began collapsing beneath his neighbor's home at 265 North.

Ultimately, the Harrises and their neighbors, the Hoonakkers, had to demolish their homes as the earth's shifting was tearing the structures apart. The houses may be gone, but the landslide hasn't shown any signs of stopping.

"It's really moved in the last three months, and it's creeping up to the edge of the road," Bird said. "As soon as you get a crack in the ground, it'll shear and then drop. And it's slowly creeping our way."

Bird joined the Harrises, Hoonakkers and other concerned residents in the subdivision to petition the city for help. City officials commissioned a geologic survey from Sunrise Engineering to explore the extent of the slide and to investigate possible causes.

Read the full article at St. George News

Ammon Teare

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