The highway between Fairview and Huntington in central Utah was closed again over the weekend because of debris covering the road. The Utah Department of Transportation says it’s been an ongoing problem since a wildfire there two years ago.
State Highway 31 passes through the area burned by the Seely Fire in 2012. Since then, every rainstorm has washed debris down the mountainside and across the road just downhill from the summit at Electric Lake. Daryl Friant, the Utah Department of Transportation district engineer in Richfield, says the US Forest Service has tried to mitigate the problem.
Friant tells KUER, “They built these debris basins or debris traps that have actually helped quite a bit and kept a lot of the rock and the trees, y’know, the deadfall, from coming down onto the road, but there’s still quite a bit of material that’s not getting held back by these structures.”
Friant says UDOT has put a new weather station in the area so they can have some early warning of heavy rain. They also have equipment and crews ready to clear out culverts and repair the road as needed. But he says the long-term answer will be new vegetation growing on the mountainside above the highway, and that will take another three to five years.