CEDAR CITY — Eighteen property owners have hired an attorney and plan to sue Cedar City and Iron County, blaming flood-control diversions for damage from the overflow of water in Quichapa Lake this spring.
"We've lost everything we own. I'm seeking punitive damages," said Cathy Wardlow, who with her husband, Jim, lost 40 acres. They have moved to Las Vegas.
The Wardlows and 17 other property owners have hired attorney Bradley Harr of Robert J. DeBry & Associates in St. George.
They claim inverse condemnation, failure to provide relocation assistance, trespassing, creating a public and private nuisance and failing to conduct and file environmental impact studies.
County and city officials have said the diversions are not responsible for the wetter-than-normal season that flooded Quichapa.
The property owners contend flood channels built in the spring routed water from Coal Creek down Airport Road, which then splits at the Bureau of Land Management tanker base and drains into the low point of the valley, where Quichapa is located.
"If all they are saying is true, and the research was wrong, someone is still at fault, because county records do not show my property, and other properties, in the 100-year flood plain," Wardlow said.
Quichapa Lake is about four miles long and more than 14 feet deep in some places, and fills with inlets from Quichapa Stream, Walter Murie Creek, Shurtz Creek, Groves Creek, Kanarra Creek and Coal Creek.
The clay-baked saucer on the basin floor has no outlet and can lose water only to evaporation.
It overflowed beyond its natural fill following the melt of a snowpack that was 300 percent above normal this past season.
David and Annette Hirschi-Boden said the spring runoff wasn't the sole cause of flooding.
They believe the diversions that channeled the elevated spring run-off into the area to avoid flooding homes in the Midvalley Estates subdivision are the source of the surplus water in Quichapa, which still covers half of their property.
Cedar City Council meeting minutes from March show that the city received a Pre-Disaster Mitigation Project grant. The grant enabled the city to spend $60,000 to fortify a ditch draining a third of the Coal Creek flow into Quichapa.
On April 26, the city and Iron County workers raced to complete a channel to divert flood waters to save homes in the Midvalley Estates subdivision.
By the end of May, the 40 cottonwood trees planted by the Wardlows, their home, hay barn, four sheds, garage, two stock tanks and building materials to construct a third barn were flooded.
The county has offered an adjustment in the taxable value of the properties harmed by the flooding.
The county also has been exploring options to pump the water from Quichapa for use as irrigation or to fill up a reservoir that would have to be built.