Creek clearing is underway in Salt Lake to minimize threat of flooding

Mar 23, 2023, 5:06 PM | Updated: Apr 17, 2023, 11:54 am

COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS, Utah —Many Utah communities are working proactively to minimize flooding that may happen when the snowmelt runoff really gets going in the next couple of months.  A Salt Lake County Engineering crew joined Flood Control crews to pull debris from Little Cottonwood Creek in Cottonwood Heights Thursday.

With a record amount of water piled up in the snowpack at the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon, hydrologists and emergency managers already know that the creek and many others will be filled to the banks with runoff starting in May, and lasting into June.

“There’s some concern about how Mother Nature is going to bring that snow melt down the mountain,” Clint Mecham said. He’s the Salt Lake County Emergency Management Director and division chief with the Unified Fire Authority.

Cleared creek

Crews want to make sure they clear the creeks of snags so debris does not dam the water. (KSL TV)

The county crew has been working down in the creek beds for several weeks.  It’s a cold, wet job.  They’ve cleared trees, sticks, vines, and any other debris that could clog the channel and force flood waters into neighborhoods.

“Things that are going to cause problems later on, and trying to pull those snags of those trees and stuff up out of the creeks,” Mecham said.

Some of the debris dams are pretty substantial.  When the water rises during runoff, it will wash even more debris into the channel.

They need to make sure that the channel in Little Cottonwood Creek is clear when peak runoff happens in the next couple of months. In 2011, sandbags were stacked along the banks, and water was lapping at the edge, in many places.

“That’s the kind of volume that we saw in 2010 and 2011,” the emergency manager said. “Once the water starts touching the bottom of the bridge, the bridge can become compromised by the force of the water.”

In Salt Lake County alone, two teams of 10 workers have been doing that job every day for several weeks, filling multiple dumpsters each day.  They do that kind of work every spring.

This year is different. “There’s a bigger sense of urgency, because, at some point, that snowpack is going to come down.  We’re trying to get in front of it as best we can,” Mecham said.

They’re encouraging homeowners who live along the creeks to clear anything that they feel they can safely remove.  That’s a big help to the county crews.

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Creek clearing is underway in Salt Lake to minimize threat of flooding