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Is Flood Basin Necessary in Neff's Canyon?

Is Flood Basin Necessary in Neff's Canyon?

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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Dina Freedman Reporting Utah is no stranger to natural disasters, including floods and extreme debris flows. One area that hasn't seen a flood anytime recently is Neff's Canyon in the Olympus Cove area.

Are people really concerned this could happen?

The residents here are concerned enough that they asked the county to look into lowering the flood threat. One answer might be a debris basin at the base of the canyon, directly behind many homes that would impact the forest there significantly.

Is Flood Basin Necessary in Neff's Canyon?

Hal Jensen, concerned resident: "It's such a pristine, nice area that if you are going to build into it, it should be done; you should build the right things for the right reasons."

At the recommendation of the Mount Olympus Community Council, the county has looked into the risks for this neighborhood. It lies in a flood zone, which also means that residents have to pay for flood insurance.

Jeff Silvestrini, Mt. Olympus Community Council Chair: "Our focus now is on the safety issue, and we're really not, we really wouldn't propose this for our neighborhood to save the insurance premiums. We would propose this because there's a legitimate flood hazard."

Is Flood Basin Necessary in Neff's Canyon?

Eric Christensen, concerned resident: "If you're willing to live up here in the Cove, you should be willing to pay for flood insurance, and you should accept the risk we live with. And I think the risk of a catastrophic debris flow is zero to none."

The size of the proposed basin would be about three football fields and would cost the county millions of dollars. It begs the question: Is the flood risk really that great?

Brian McInerney, hydrologist, National Weather Service: "Most likely a flood in this area would be caused by a spring snow-melt event with snow pack of approximately 175% or greater melting at a rate of over two to three inches a day, and that followed by a large thunderstorm."

In Utah we've seen these canyon flood events before, such as in Farmington Canyon in 1983. But does that mean the same thing will happen in Neff's, where the geography is different?

Dr. Merrill Ridd, professor emeritus, U of U: "The size of the drainage basin varies and the steepness of the basin varies. And the condition of soil and vegetation vary considerably from each of those numerous basins."

The council does want to hear from the residents before they make a recommendation to the county for the next step: to either go ahead with the project or study the problem in more depth.

Helene Cuomo, concerned resident: "We're losing so much open space, and to build this concrete monstrosity, with such a slim chance it would be needed, is that the best use of open space and money?"

This problem in Neff's isn't new. In 1974 Utah State University did a study, and one of the potential solutions offered up was a debris basin.

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