While July flooding from Pack Creek overflows caused significant damages to properties near the creek, those costs will likely pale in comparison to the tens of millions of dollars in infrastructural improvements that Grand County has been whittling down but hardly put a dent in over the past decade.
In 2011, the county commissioned an update to its Storm Drain Master Plan from Horrocks Engineering, a firm based in Pleasant Grove that operates across the Western U.S.
The conclusion of the master plan update was that the county had $39 million in improvements to make to its storm drain system, $16 million of which Horrocks and the county classified as top priorities. The estimates are based on 2009 construction costs and have likely increased in that time.
To date, the county has completed four projects on the list of improvements, including two from the list of top priorities. The four projects account for 11% of the total estimated costs of improvements.
The largest of the four completed projects is a trunk line along Spanish Valley Drive connecting Rim Village to Pack Creek — a project that county officials said is now part of the Peak View Subdivision development.
The list of improvements include a handful in the vicinity of the Stocks Drive culvert failure, which clogged with debris generated by the Pack Creek Fire and caused water to overflow into downstream yards.
However, county officials say that completion of those improvements would not have prevented the flood damages caused in late July.
“Flood water came from the upper Pack Creek/Brumley/Dory drainage,” wrote Commission Administrator Baird in an email. “The projects mentioned concern localized storm runoff. The fire presented new flows and debris issues that the master plan didn’t anticipate.”
Baird added that, in response to the fire and subsequent flooding, the county has pursued and received approval for a berm on a parcel of land south of the Beeman Subdivision, intended to provide “interim mitigation.”
The berm will be on a parcel owned by the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, and its more specific purpose will be to divert overflow from Stocks Drive back into the floodway channel, according to Baird.
Simultaneously, the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service is conducting an assessment on the county’s behalf that will inform an update to the county’s storm drainage master plan, assessing changes brought on by the fire.
The interim berm will remain in place until the conservation service provides “broader and more permanent” recommendations to Grand County regarding mitigation, according to Baird.
Many property owners have taken matters into their own hands by building berms on their Pack Creek-adjacent land, according to Grand County Building Official and Floodplain Administrator Bill Hulse.
“Over the years, many property owners have created berms ofr filled in areas along the creek to protect their property and have inadvertently caused damage to their neighbors’ property,” Hulse said in a letter to property owners along the creek.” Moving forward, we need to ensure this doesn’t continue happening”
Hulse sent the letter to property owners to update property owners on debris cleanup efforts as well as long-term and short-term mitigation efforts.
Hulse reminded property owners in the letter that it is “not permissible to engage in construction of any kind” within certain areas near Pack Creek, also known as the Special Flood Hazard Area. He specified that such construction includes grading, filling, and reshaping.
“The county is asking that people work with us, whether it’s getting engineering permits for improvements or allowing the county access to the creek through your property for future mitigation projects,” Hulse said.