UTAH REAL ESTATE

- Little Valley Flooding -

Add name to drainage petition at bottom

INSUFFICIENT DRAINAGE WILL CAUSE LOSS OF PROPERTY ON 3150 SOUTH AND BELOW

These pictures were taken at least 20 minutes AFTER a 45 minute rain storm on 7-18-2015 at 5:15pm. The water was higher before, but people weren’t interested in taking pictures because they were too busy trying to save their homes.

Little Valley Flood St George
3150 SOUTH AND 2880 E

St George Little Valley Flooding
3150 SOUTH

St George Little Valley Flooding
3150 SOUTH
St George Little Valley Flooding
2880 EAST

THE PROBLEM:

We currently have about a half-mile square area that drains onto one street (3150 south).  The underground drainage appears to consist of a 24” pipe which is very quickly completely overwhelmed and only has a total of 10 small curb drains for a very large area.  This last major rainstorm only lasted about 30-45 minutes and was entering homes and causing landscape damage.  This was not a particularly long downpour and was certainly not a 100 year event.   The issues on 3150 S  and below were clearly  caused by allowing developers to get away with installing a completely inadequate drainage systems.  During subsequent lesser storms we witnessed water streaming right over these small curb drains.  During this storm they weren’t even visible because they were submerged.

I've been trying to get a plan for action from the city before the entire area is built out but have been so far unsuccessful. I am told by the mayor that it's too late to do an adequate drainage system. I've been told by various city council members that they are looking into the situation but have not yet provided any concrete plans or solutions. Meanwhile the developers build away.. tying more 24" diameter pipes into more 24" pipes. I can't imagine there would be an impartial engineer in the world who would say this system is adequate. I am originally from a town which also received infrequent rain (Moorpark, California). It is a town with about half the population of St George and more absorbant soils. In Moorpark there is a network of huge culverts and tunnels leading to a river. Many of these were about 30' wide and 10-15 feet deep. Some of the smaller tunnels leading to these systems were about 8' in diameter. Las Vegas is larger than St George, but they have similar soil conditions and weather and they have an immense drainage system. St George's drainage system would appear to favor no one but the developers immediate bottom line in this area.

I'm disappointed that this issue doesn't seem important or urgent enough to take immediate, and substantial action. As can be seen in the email thread with government officials, I think they're acting like it's an impossible problem and that it's too late even though there would seem to be some pretty obvious solutions to help mitigate this problem.

I'm not an engineer, but I think it would be possible to put a large diameter (at least 6ft) down 3000 E with many large curb drains to sufficiently allow water into it and route that pipe through the field south of 3150 S, under Little Valley Rd. and west out to the wash. This would help catch much of the runoff from the east which currently has to run over the streets when the drains are easily overwhelmed and down to settle in the low area which appears to be the development "Little Valley Ranchos". I have no doubt that putting in an adequate drainage system would be expensive and inconvenient, but if it had been done right to begin with it would have been less costly. I believe codes need to be updated immediately to prevent developers from putting in pathetically inadequate drainage systems. As I am being verbally reassured by city officials that "they're on it" I drive by excavators every day putting in more tiny drain pipes all around. I don't know what the situation is here, but I've heard that sometimes a city will outgrow the competence of its engineers. Maybe when St George was small, these sorts of drainage systems were sufficient, but clearly they're not anymore.

Frankly, I don't blame officials for ignoring my lone voice and I don't blame developers for doing what is required and nothing more.

If you are concerned about this drainage problem.. particularly in light of the fact that it is predicted to be one of the biggest El Nino weather events ever this year, please contact your local officials using the information below and fell free to add your name to the petition by using the form at the very bottom.

Most of the city officials I have contacted have been very responsive and friendly, but I think it may help to have more people express concern.

Mayor: Jon.Pike@sgcity.org
Public Works: cameron.cutler@sgcity.org
Councilman Gil Almquist: gil.almquist@sgcity.org
Councilwoman Bette Arial: bette.arial@sgcity.org
Councilman Joe Bowcutt: joe.bowcutt@sgcity.org
Councilman Jimmie Hughes: Jimmie.Hughes@sgcity.org
Councilwoman Michele Randall: Michele.Randall@sgcity.org


Recent Fox 13 SLC article on El Nino

Please see the following pictures and correspondence to understand the problem more fully:

St George Little Valley Flooding
This shows the aproximate size of the area which appears to drain to 3150 S and eventually toward Little Valley Road. It is expected to be handled by 24" underground pipes and a few, small, scattered curb drains.
St George Little Valley Flooding
LOCATIONS OF ONLY CURB DRAINS IN THE PATH TO 3150 S AND 2880 E
St George Little Valley Flooding
INADEQUATE CURB DRAINS IN SIZE AND NUMBER
St George Little Valley Flooding
INADEQUATE CURB DRAINS IN SIZE AND NUMBER
St George Little Valley Flooding
INADEQUATE CURB DRAINS IN SIZE AND NUMBER

St George Little Valley Flooding
INADEQUATE CURB DRAINS IN SIZE AND NUMBER

St George Little Valley Flooding
INADEQUATE CURB DRAINS IN SIZE AND NUMBER
St George Little Valley Flooding
INADEQUATE CURB DRAINS IN SIZE AND NUMBER
St George Little Valley Flooding
INADEQUATE CURB DRAINS IN SIZE AND NUMBER

ANOTHER VIEW OF AREA THAT MUST DRAIN TO 3150 S

AN EVEN BROADER VIEW - CLICK FOR LARGER


These lots MUST flood. The torrent of water rushing down 3150 S hits them head on and created a waterfall into these basement lots. The developer has apparently prepped them to sell to unsuspecting buyers already. An earthen catchbasin is supposed to help the situation even though it was completely overwhelmed this last storm and still has to let the water out into the homes below it (to the west) with no detectable outlet under Little Valley Road.

Email threads to local Mayor and Council members:

Subject : Major flooding issue on 3150 South
Date : Wed, 19 Aug 2015 08:27:13 -0700

My neighbors and I are very concerned about flooding on our street (3150 South) particularly.  After looking over the area extensively my concern has only grown.  I am not a civil engineer, but I would depend on one to help resolve this problem so that fairly minor rainstorms down cause major losses in the future.  I’ve created a crude presentation of the problem (attached).  It is my hope that it gets the point across at least.  I’ve never seen such a flood from such a short rain storm in my entire life.  When city officials were on the scene they told me that 3150 S and immediately below was the biggest problem area in the whole city that day. That is not comforting, especially since nothing has been done to mitigate the problem since and Salisbury continues to build more houses on even lower ground.  As development continues to the North and East, I think it is critical that something be done to adequately address this issue.  Also, I think it is fairly obvious that the three vacant lots at the end of 3150 South should NEVER be built on until adequate drainage is installed to handle the volume coming from all around.  These three lots were a lake on the day in question.   If they were built they would certainly have been flooded and it would have caused even worse flooding up 3150 S  because the water wouldn’t have been able to go over into those lots like a waterfall. 

I am originally from Southern California where it also rains infrequently, but in my city (Moorpark) there were many very large culverts and pipes.  These drainage systems were 30ft wide and 10-25 ft deep in many cases and the pipes were 3-8ft in diameter with long curb drains everywhere.  Some tunnels were large enough to drive large trucks through.  During my 20 years in Moorpark California  I’d seen some of those enormous ditches 35 ft wide and 12-15 ft deep  fill nearly to the top numerous times.   I’m new to St George, but I haven’t been able to find signs of adequate drainage in my area.  All I see is a 2ft diameter pipe with tiny curb drains which are responsible for handling runoff from a vast area and which  drains into a low spot with houses in it.   It seems obvious that in a major event many houses will suffer major damage and a lake will form at Little Valley Rd and Horseman Park Dr.

What I’m hoping for is an explanation on how the city plans to mitigate this obvious problem in the near future.  If it will help to gather hundreds of signatures on a petition or go to city council meetings, please let me know.  I will be glad to do what I can to make sure a large part of our neighborhood isn’t destroyed by a flood unnecessarily.

Thank you for any help.

City Officials response:

Subject : RE: Major flooding issue on 3150 South
Date : Wed, 19 Aug 2015 09:17:25 -0700
I will forward to engineering and see what I can find out.  The problem we have in St. George is not too much rain but too much rain all at once!
Sometimes I think engineers forget that very important point.  There also is the possibility that when the rest of the surrounding area developes that some of this will be mitigated, however a plan should be in place until that happens.  
I will get the right people on it and see what I can find out.  I do agree that we need to make sure there are adequate drains and bigger is better.

Thank you.

Jimmie Hughes 

Subject : Re: Major flooding issue on 3150 South
Date : Wed, 19 Aug 2015 09:22:05 -0700
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Nate,

I have forwarded your email to Cameron Cutler, public works director, and Wes Jenkins, engineer. They are aware of the issues and will be in contact soon.

Michele
Subject : RE: Major flooding issue on 3150 South
Date : Wed, 19 Aug 2015 10:17:27 -0700
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Nate,
I will look into this issue and find answers.
Thank you for letting me know of your concerns.
Respectfully,
Bette


Me:

Subject : RE: Major flooding issue on 3150 South
Date : Wed, 19 Aug 2015 10:25:28 -0700
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Thank you for your response.  I’m worried as I see more and more development continuing all around with nothing adequate being done.  It seems like more of the same small diameter pipe going in all around.  If this isn’t addressed soon, it will be too late.  It seems like it would be much more cost-effective to do the right thing now while streets are going in instead of having to lose a bunch more homes and then tear up all the streets and do it right later.   Certainly it’s cheaper for developers to put in these ridiculously inadequate systems, but it will be better for them, the residents and the city in the long run if they are FORCED to do the right thing.  

City Officials response:

Subject : RE: Major flooding issue on 3150 South
Date : Wed, 19 Aug 2015 11:37:52 -0700
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I agree.  As an update, development staff had  scheduled and is having a meeting with developer on this very issue today.  
Thank you for your input.  Always helpful.
Jimmie Hughes 

Subject : RE: Major flooding issue on 3150 South
Date : Wed, 19 Aug 2015 13:08:23 -0700
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Nate,
The city mansger and public works director are aware of the situation and are looking into it as we speak. 

After their investigation, I will report their findings along with the other council members.
Thanks for your patience.
Bette

Me:

Subject : RE: Major flooding issue on 3150 South
Date : Wed, 19 Aug 2015 13:14:56 -0700
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Thank you.  I would love to be able to inform everyone of what is being done to address this problem.  Every time it rains a lot of us fear how bad it may get.  During a decent storm our street (3150 S) requires a taller truck or SUV just to get through the river that our street is turns into.

City Officials response:

Subject : RE: Major flooding issue
Date : Mon, 24 Aug 2015 14:05:21 -0700
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Just what I got that day. I know they met that day and are working with developer on some issues.  I have not had any follow up with them.  I will be seeing them at this Thursday's meeting.  Feel free also to contact Cameron Cutler, public works director.  He has info from your email and is aware and would have more first hand information. Cameron.cutler@sgcity.org 
I will let you know what I find out.
Jimmie Hughes 

Subject : Re: Major flooding issue
Date : Mon, 24 Aug 2015 14:39:51 -0700
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Nate, 

I received the from our public works director: 

The public works leaders/engineers have had some conversations specifically regarding this area. We will be meeting today with the developer to discuss the overall drainage in the LV area (existing and future). We will have more to report once we can start that dialogue with them." 

So there will be more information to talk about soon. 

Thanks, 

Jon 
Subject : RE: Major flooding issue
Date : Mon, 24 Aug 2015 19:10:09 -0700
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The situation is being looked into. I haven't received the final word.
Bette

Me:

Subject : RE: Major flooding issue
Date : Tue, 25 Aug 2015 08:19:32 -0700
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Jon,

 

This flood occurred on 7/18/15.  It is now 8/25/15.  I think we are concerned that while things are being looked into, developers are building away as cheaply and quickly as possible on all the remaining vacant lots which are even lower than our street.  I have to doubt that they disclosed what will inevitably occur to all these new home buyers.  I don’t think anyone can blame the builders for maximizing their profits as much as the government will allow and at the expense of homebuyers, but I think we depend on the city to prevent them from doing this to us.  Please look into the situation faster so that more houses aren’t built where it ABSOLUTELLY WILL FLOOD BADLY without something new and substantial being done upstream of us.

 

Thanks for your help.

City Officials response:

Cc : "Cameron Cutler" <cameron.cutler@sgcity.org>
Subject : Re: Major flooding issue
Date : Tue, 25 Aug 2015 09:04:41 -0700
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Nate, 

You're right in that it is the city's role to make sure that as development occurs, it complies with all applicable building codes. That has happened so far as I can tell in this case. But still, sometimes like in all fields, engineers differ in their opinions as to what will work under certain circumstances and what won't and there are questions as to just how "big" to go. 

Storms here have, in the last few years, really changed in their complexion. We have more isolated, brief, but heavy rain storms than we did a few decades ago. We're therefore as a city and a county trying to determine what to do short and long term to address this and what the costs will be for citizens. One way or another, that's who pays for these things. So how much do we "oversize" storm drain systems in an area that receives so little rainfall - on average! When that "average" is toppled by one of these brief but powerful storms, it certainly wreaks havoc on whatever area it hits. 

So, we will continue to work on this issue both in your neighborhood and generally. I hope there can be some short term solutions for the developments in your area. 

Thanks, 

Jon 

Me:

Subject : RE: Major flooding issue
Date : Tue, 25 Aug 2015 09:39:08 -0700
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Jon, 

Thanks for the response. I have found that prevention is worth the cost. I 
remember many times seeing what happens to houses in this area when it rains 
hard. I remember watching houses floating down the river on the news 
several times and many other times seeing them flood. Where I grew up in 
California, this didn't happen. We had a huge drainage system that was dry 
99.9% of the time. Seeing it fill several times I think we all agreed it 
was worth it to have it there. Drainage systems are obviously expensive, but 
so is losing your house, all your possessions and potentially your life. 

After knowing full well what happens when it rains hard here, I think it odd 
and disturbing that codes still allow for developers to put in absolutely 
pathetic drainage systems which are overwhelmed by even a short and intense 
or moderately long storm. 

Maybe it is time to change the codes before we lose some more houses. I'm 
no engineer, but I can tell you first hand these drains are so inadequate, 
they may as well not even be there. In a light rain, they're unnecessary 
and in a hard one they're useless. 

City Officials response:

Subject : Re: Major flooding issue
Date : Tue, 25 Aug 2015 10:22:44 -0700
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Nate, 

It's too late for us to do the kind of canal system you describe, although we do have a pretty good situation with our dry washes and the river ways now. According to the engineers I've listened to, what we do need to consider is enlarging our storm drain catch basins and perhaps even the storm drain pipes themselves. However, even some of this will take more than fifty years to change throughout the city and require millions and millions of dollars. So while we probably both agree that would be best, I'm not sure yet that it's feasible - at least to the extent that we could say we would NEVER have a flooding event. There are "middle ground" options. That's what is being looked at currently. 

The massive flooding you referred to that occurred back in 2005 is not the same thing we're talking about in your neighborhood. Those events are rare, and great improvements were done through the federal government that has put us in a much better situation for those kinds of events. 

We also started a few years ago a county-wide flood control board. We have tax revenue funding that now allows us to work together on designing and building drainage improvements that will make us safer as a region, since we're all connected to each other:) 

I hope this helps. We're actively engaged in making sure we do the best we can. 

Jon 

Me:

Sep 14 at 10:00 AM

I spoke with Cameron Cutler on 9/3/15 and he told me there would be plans to solve this problem and that there had been much talk about it and that updates would shortly follow.  I understand that there has been a lot of discussion about it by now and I think the residents affected can appreciate that problems have to be discussed and planned for, but it has now been about two months since our street was flooded and we have no concrete plan or timeline that has been presented to save our neighborhood from flooding.  Of course these rain clouds are bound to remind us of that day and make us wonder how bad it will get this time.   I am told that funds are an issue which is understandable, but I do see that funds exist for various other projects…. like the huge choo choo track at Tonaquint Park.  I don’t know how those types of unnecessary entertainments are being funded, but if it’s with public money I think we all have to wonder why an expensive toy is taking priority over serious drainage issues.   I think we all appreciate parks.. especially when they accommodate those with special needs, but those beautiful parks will be a cold comfort when our homes are flooding because funds and planning for parks took priority over real, immediate drainage problems.

 
Thanks again for your time and concern in making sure public safety issues are addressed promptly and given appropriate priority.

City Officials response:

Sep 14 at 10:43 AM

To summarize, there will be some modifications to the current drainage plans of the developer. 


What isn't helpful to the discussion are your comments about parks and entertainment and putting those funds towards drainage. These projects come out of totally separate funds, including donated funds (for the train at the all abilities park). Park impact funds cannot be used for other purposes. And another source of funds for the all abilities park was the sale of surplus city property, returning a community-wide asset to another community-wide asset. 

Current requirements for drainage may indeed be modified, but they would come at the trade off of higher impact fees and/or taxes. There simply is no other way to do it. So while we will make certain that the current drainage requirements are met by the developers in your area, we won't be able to dig everything up and start over to build to a higher level of protection than we currently require. Your neighborhood could certainly do that if they chose to by forming a district and paying for the improvements yourselves. 

Finally, while I understand your concern (I live directly alongside the Virgin River, so I've seen a different kind of flooding in my neighborhood), some patience on your part would be appreciated. There will be some short term changes to drainage plans in your area and perhaps even modifications to some existing structure, but it isn't going to happen within the next few weeks. Cameron or Wes will explain what will happen to improve storm drain protection in the very short term. 

Thanks,

Jon

Me:

Sep 14, 2015, at 11:16 AM

Jon,


I admitted I didn't know how the parks are funded.  It sounds like you are saying this park cost the city nothing at all extra because it was traded for other land and the rest was donated.  If that's the case, that's fantastic!  Hopefully you can forgive me for my ignorance in assuming it cost the city something and that there was some sort of give and take in the overall budget.  

Having witnessed the effects of flooding several times in my life I am having a difficult time being patient.  I am trying though.  I am trying to be reasonable, but I don't have anything in writing of what or when something will be done.  I don't expect to see progress today, but I would expect that after two months we could be presented with a written plan of what will be done and at least a general time frame.

In my ignorance, I don't see why the intersection of 3150 S and 3000 E couldn't be dug up at some point to install sufficient pipes and inlets to funnel the water North out toward the canal further down 3000 E or at least out into the huge field for now.  That would be a pretty short run that could direct practically all the water from the east of us away from 3150 S.

As to current drainage requirements, I haven't heard how those have been improved.  I still see small pipes going in everywhere.  It seems strange to knowingly allow developers to put in what it seems we all agree are inadequate drainage systems and then suggesting that homeowners who depended on professionals to protect them should form a district to pay for what should have been installed to begin with.  Maybe you have figures on how much extra it would cost each homeowner to have adequate pipes installed to begin with but I don't.  I can't imagine it would be that much though and I think everyone would agree it was worth it when the were told what was at stake.  I suspect the added cost of larger pipes installed right to begin with would be much less than the cost of flood damage.

I think people are willing to pay for better infrastructure, but that choice was never ours.  It was made for us and it appears the same choices that led to this situation are being replicated in every development I see going in currently.


 
 
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My goal here isn't to harass people, it is to protect my family and property.  I hope that's understandable.

Thanks again.

City Officials response:

Sep 14 at 12:58 PM

Nate,

Thanks for your email. Again, I'll let Cameron or Wes follow up with you on details. 

Again the bottom line is that we, as well as all other cities, make decisions about storm drainage based on typical and atypical storm runoff. For decades it has worked well. There are occasionally going to be exceptions. We've seen those exceptions here. We haven't designed our storm drain system to completely handle the worst possible storms. To do that years ago would have been very expensive - and builders, real estate agents and individuals would have fought it. I know this because they fight it even now as it is! Nobody likes high impact fees. They might say in surveys that they'd like their systems to be designed with larger storms in mind, but how many people would really want to pay the extra cost when it is for their home? I guess we'll see going forward, as we're currently discussing some of these very things at the city and county level. 

Today, to revamp our entire storm drainage system would probably cost hundreds of millions of dollars. And we can't just do one area to a new standard. It affects the entire system, and all citizens would expect the same level of protection. So it would have to occur over time once a decision like that is made. It would likely take thirty to fifty years to fully accomplish. 

As I indicated, there will be some short term, local-to-your-area changes that we think will help a lot. 

Thanks,

Jon

Me:

On Sep 14, 2015, at 4:33 PM
Thanks again for your time.  I've talked to Cameron and he said he will be providing the drawings of the plan and proposals.  Hopefully there will be a timeline as well.  I hope it can be understood that I don't enjoy this, I just feel the need to follow up and make sure that I've done everything I can to press the issue.  I would just sell my house to the next sucker and move to higher ground, but I can't do that in good conscience... plus I love my neighbors and I hate moving.  This is a great city which I love very much already.  So far I've found a thousand things to love and only one major concern.  I think a lot in this area feel the same way. Overall, things are great.  I don't want to sound like it's all bad or we're a bunch of whiners.

 

Petition to install adequate drainage in Little Valley and update drainage codes.


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