Water Manager Cites Factors in S. Utah Flood

Water Manager Cites Factors in S. Utah Flood

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ST. GEORGE, Utah (AP) -- Building on the flood plain, wildfires, restricted river channels and early snowpack were factors in January's flooding in southwestern Utah, said Ron Thompson, manager of the Washington County Water Conservancy District.

The damage was not due to the amount of water, Thompson told a Democrats of Southern Utah luncheon Monday.

It was due to "allowing building near the river and on the flood plain," he said.

Last year's wildfires burned more than 58,000 acres in the Virgin River drainage area, Thompson said.

This destroyed the vegetation and baked the ground, resulting in most of the rainfall running off instead of soaking into the ground.

Then there was a wet fall with early snowpack at lower elevations than normal.

And the river channels were restricted by debris and vegetation, especially nonnative tamarisk. This was the result of a long dry period with no floods to clear the channel.

Manual grooming of the channels did not take place because neither the conservancy district nor the county had a good plan in place to deal with tamarisk growth in the rivers.

And more flooding could be on the way, he said.

"The spring runoff is likely to be large and likely to be long," Thompson said.

The good news is the Gunlock and Kolob reservoirs are full, and, "There is plenty of water for this year," he said

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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