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AREA NEARLY BACK TO NORMAL 1 YEAR AFTER COLLAPSE OF QUAIL CREEK DIKE

SHARE AREA NEARLY BACK TO NORMAL 1 YEAR AFTER COLLAPSE OF QUAIL CREEK DIKE

A year after the Quail Creek Dike burst nine miles from St. George, life is nearly back to normal.

The unexpected collapse left a gap 200 feet wide in the earthfill structure. A wall of water shot from the reservoir, tore across the farmland, then flooded the Virgin River and continued downstream.About 1,500 people were forced to flee their homes; fields were flooded; livestock were killed; roads were ripped up. Altogether, there was $12 million in property damage below the dike.

Most damage claims have been paid by the Washington County Water Conservancy District's insurance companies, the Legislature or the State Community Impact Board. Almost all debris is gone, and highway bridges have been restored.

In addition, the district is planning to rebuild the failed dike with what it believes will be a safer earth structure.

But residents are divided about the plans. Some think the new project will be secure, but others are apprehensive.

"To a degree, I guess, they've been brought back to normal," said Marvin G. Johnson, Washington County director for the U.S. Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service, speaking of farmers whose crops and livestock were hit by the New Year's Day flood.

About 100 families were left without irrigation water when the flood cut a diversion line, and many had fields damaged by debris.

"Fortunately, the irrigation water was restored about the first of April," he said. "They had some reduction in crops."

Johnson said most of the damaged fields have been restored by bulldozing away debris, leveling the land and reinstalling ditches and pipelines. But 70 or 75 acres were not restorable.

Bloomington, a luxurious bedroom subdivision near St. George, was one of the hardest-hit areas.

Paul Wilson, who lives just above the Virgin River's bank in Bloomington, said that at the time of the flood, "this house was under construction and we weren't sure if it had been swept away or not."

Although the community is largely back to normal, he said, some damaged homes "still show signs that they have not been put back in good order . . . "As a resident here, I'm still very apprehensive about the plans they have for rebuilding the dike . . .

"They make all of these claims as to how it's going to be safe. But they said the same things about the other one."

Wilson said he is more worried about the dam, which did not wash out, than a rebuilt dike. The dam leaked too, and it may have had more grouting, he said.

A few months ago he walked around the reservoir and across the dam's top. "Of course, most of the water had gone. But I was disconcerted to see below the dam a large body of water that I had not realized was there."

This body of water was on the other side of the dam from the reservoir, Wilson said.

Scott and Sherrie Hansen were selling their home when the flood hit. The house, on Swaps Drive, Bloomington, was damaged, and the furnished basement was destroyed. Water and mud filled the basement stairwell.

Today she is happy about the way the family's claim was handled.

"We were probably one of the first 20 to get taken care of, and the company was really good about coming in and settling," she said. "We had to file official claims, and it (the compensation) wasn't 100 percent, but we just glad to get anything."

The Hansens were able to sell the home, and built another in Bloomington.

"The break of the dike really has not stopped people from moving into Bloomington," she said. "There are four new homes along the river, and that whole area was totally flooded."

Bloomington residents generally feel good about the way compensation was handled. Meanwhile, she is in favor of rebuilding the dike.

"If St. George and southern Utah are to grow, we need the water," Sherrie Hansen said. "I think they selected a construction that they feel is going to work this time . . . I think they're being real cautious."

Dr. Howard R. Griffin, a dentist who has moved from Bloomington to Bloomington Hills, suffered losses in the flood. In addition to destroying personal belongings, like stacks of his record albums, the water damaged his home.

Griffin got some compensation, but it was nothing compared to what he lost, he said. "We didn't get enough money to restore it (his home) like it should have been."

Also, more street work is needed. "We had such a puddle out there in the street, with nowhere for the water to go," Griffin said. A city official promised a manhole would be put in at that location, to drain water in the future. "They haven't followed through, either," he said.

Griffin doesn't worry about the rebuilding of the reservoir.

"A lot of people object to it, but they've got to have the dam," he said.

"My theory is, if they can put a man on the moon, they can build a dam that will hold water . . . I don't have any qualms about them doing it right this time."