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Reporting from the St. George area focused on local government, public lands and the environment, indigenous issues and faith and spirituality.

Recent Floods In Iron County Prompt Residents To Draw Attention To Waterway Maintenance Issues

A photo of a ranch demolished by a storm.
Courtesy of DeeDee Brush
Waves of flooding hit Flying L Ranch in Iron County starting early in the morning on Aug. 18. A few homes and several outdoor spaces were impacted.

Iron County has been hit with several major flooding events since July, which was the second wettest July for the county in nearly 130 years.

Floods started picking up when a cargo train derailed near Lund on July 15. Since then Enoch, Cedar City and other unincorporated areas of the county have been flooded. The county and cities have issued emergency declarations in response.

One event last week tore through neighborhoods and farms north of Cedar City’s airport. A waterway clogged with debris caused waves of floodwaters and mud to damage a few homes and several outdoor spaces.

DeeDee Brush, secretary of the homeowners associations of one of the impacted neighborhoods, Flying L Ranch, said residents and local leaders have been helpful in cleaning up. But she said she wishes there was more preparation beforehand.

“It’s unfortunate that maintenance and things weren't done in advance to prevent this,” Brush said. “I don't know how you ever planned for this except to plan for 120% of water to flow down every creek.”

She said flooding in other parts of the county should have been an indicator to check the waterways. Now, she hopes local leaders will better maintain the canal so they’ll be in a different position in the future.

George Colson, the county’s emergency manager, said he sympathizes with residents facing damage. But when it comes to the floods they experienced last week, there wasn’t much they could do to get ready.

“You could spend tens of millions of dollars of taxpayers money and build a [canal like you’d find in Los Angeles], and you might control something like this,” Colson said,“but we don't have tens of millions of dollars, we’re a small rural Utah county and there's no way we could plan for this. … This was a 500 year flood. That was nothing that we could have foreseen.”

He said he’s working on documenting the damage for all the events to potentially get assistance from the state and federal government. A spokesperson for Utah’s governor’s office said they’re gathering more information before they decide on declaring an emergency at the state level.

Walker Melling’s hayfield, near the Flying L Ranch neighborhood, was overrun by mud during the flood. He says he’s started a request for federal assistance but now realizes it’s going to be a long process.

Despite his loss in crops this year, he said he’s grateful it wasn’t worse for him.

“There's a lot of people that have had their whole lives disrupted,” Melling said. “Their landscaping is a total loss and they almost had water in their homes — and that's a lot more tragic than having to deal with a hayfield.”

Lexi is KUER's Southwest Bureau reporter
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