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2 cities eager to prevent floods

Highland, Alpine want to solve drainage problems

Deseret Morning News graphic

City officials in Highland and Alpine say they're eager to work with the North Utah County Water Conservancy District to make sure development on the benches near Point of the Mountain doesn't lead to flooding below.

"I've been to enough flooded homes to not want to see anyone else have a home flooded," said Barry Edwards, Highland city administrator: "We will do everything we need to do to make sure that doesn't happen."

Members of the water conservancy district's board of directors this past week pointed fingers at the two Utah County cities, as well as Draper in Salt Lake County, while addressing the Utah County Commission.

Developments in those cities are proceeding without proper consideration of drainage, board members said, and they're putting homes in Lehi and the unincorporated area below at risk of being flooded.

The board also asked the county commissioners for help in setting up a meeting with officials from those cities believed to be relying too much on drainage areas designed to alleviate flooding and high runoff, particularly the Dry Creek basin.

Such mediation, Highland and Alpine officials say, is not needed.

"We have the same concerns," said Ted Stillman, Alpine city administrator. "I think everybody needs to get together and discuss how to solve the problem."

Both Stillman and Edwards said a regional runoff standard needs to be set.

"It needs to happen," Stillman said. "I would assume that the conservancy district would pull everybody together to discuss the issue."

"The North Utah County Water Conservancy District has never invited us to a meeting," Edwards said. "They've never said, 'Let's sit down, let's have a summit and talk about it.' They just pretty much limit their correspondence to letters saying, 'Stop,' and we can't really stop. . . . We don't want anyone to be flooded, but we also don't have a right to tell people we can't develop, either."

Edwards said he met with the district board three or four years ago and asked that a study be conducted so a "runoff coefficient" could be established. Cities would then have a formula to calculate historical runoff and a standard to which they could make developers conform, he said.

"For whatever reason, they just didn't do it," Edwards said.

That doesn't mean it can't be done now in order to avoid future problems, he said, but it would be up to the North Utah County Water Conservancy District to do it.

"You can't look to Highland and say, 'Highland, you do a hydrology study for the entire north end of the county,' " Edwards said. "That's just not going to happen."

Conservancy district representative John Jacobs said he wanted the county commission's help determining what can be considered historical runoff.

Edwards said Highland is using .5 cubic feet per second as "the runoff coefficient that most closely associates with historical flow." Developers in Highland are required to do a study and demonstrate to city officials that the runoff from their respective projects is no more than .5 cubic feet per second, he said.

"If the North Utah County Water Conservancy District thinks (that measurement) is the wrong number, then tell us what the right number is and we'll certainly conform to that," Edwards said.

Draper presents a problem for the conservancy district because the city is part of Salt Lake County but has developed across Utah County borders. The city is is also in the process of hiring a city engineer, said Draper spokeswoman Maridene Hancock. Calls to the former city engineer and interim engineer were not returned.

"From what developers are telling us, Draper city is just saying, 'That's fine. Looks like a good plan. Go ahead a build your homes,' " district board member Kent Evans told the Utah County Commission.

"We're crossing county boundaries," said Frank Mills, a member of the water district's board of directors and Pleasant Grove city administrator. "We're dealing with Draper in Salt Lake County, and we're dealing with Alpine and Highland in Utah County. Unless they'll sit down and listen to us, the residents down below that Dry Creek detention pond are going to be the ones who suffer. Lehi and the incorporated area from Lehi out to (Utah Lake) are going to be the ones suffering."