April 9, 2011
Rockville Residents and Property Owners:
Although there has been much discussion during Town Council meetings and the January 26 Town Meeting about the December flood and subsequent erosion control work, it is clear that more public participation in Rockville town meetings would help resolve some issues before we have to deal with hearsay.
I will outline here the steps that were taken to respond to the flood event.
December 22. After reviewing the condition of South Creek (“Trees”) Dam and speaking with Sheriff Kurt Wright, I issued an evacuation order for that night for residents between the south side of Main Street and River/Grafton Rds.
Also on December 22, after seeing the impact that the flood had on Rockville, specifically the following locations: the threat to homes west of the Doggie Dude Ranch, upstream from the Rockville Bridge exposing the north abutment to erosion; the loss of property between Fatali and Arnold’s homes and potentially threatened homes in this area; the loss of farm equipment, property and land at Ryan Ballard's and Toomey's pastures; and possible damage to the Sewer Lagoons, I signed a Proclamation of Local Emergency (as did Mayor Pat Cluff for Springdale) and submitted it to Washington County for their consideration. This started a review process for application for emergency funding by the County who reviewed the flood impact throughout the County.
On December 23, I toured the Rockville areas of concern with two representatives of the Natural Resource Conservation Service, two engineers from Sunrise Engineering in St. George, and the Project Manager from the S.G. Office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. They agreed that dangerous conditions existed at the areas of concern, and they reported their observations to the Washington County Commissioners.
On December 29, I reported on the river areas of concern at a special meeting of the Rockville Town Council.
January 5. I attended a meeting of Washington County Commissioners and mayors of towns affected by the December flood. I presented a list of erosion concerns and a map of the six locations where there was a threat to homes, the Rockville Bridge, and other properties.
January 7. At a meeting with Commissioner Denny Drake I was informed that Rockville qualified for emergency assistance from the County and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
The County which has been given the authority to deal with flood issues by the State of Utah, sent a declaration of emergency to the governor. Based on the governor's assessment and declaration, the U.S. Government made their determination and declared Washington County a disaster area, thereby releasing federal funds through the NRCS. The use of these funds is determined by Washington County who receives planning assistance from the NRCS which presents a plan to the Army Corps for their approval before any work is begun.
January 12. At a meeting with FEMA at the County, they asked to come and examine the areas of concern. They toured the three sites that were eventually selected for work but since homes and infrastructure (bridge) had not been damaged they could not help but they did admit there was the possibility of damage if the spring runoff was high.
January 12 At the regular meeting of our Town Council we discussed the river flooding and that the County was working with the NRCS to provide erosion control assistance.
January 18. Jeff Ballard, David Hatfield and I met with Ron Whitehead, Director of Public Works for the County, and Lance Smith of the NRCS to see a map of the proposed river work sites in Rockville and hear in general what they planned to do. The work needed the Army Corps approval since they are the ultimate authority on any plan to conduct work on the river or its banks back 30 feet from the water. Rockville does not have jurisdiction in this space.
Please note that the erosion control project is a federal funded and County/NRCS project, and they selected SunRock as the contractor. The County solicited easements from eighteen Rockville property owners where access to and along the river was needed. The contractor selected the river access locations where their trucks could bring materials, and in one instance negotiated with property owners to allow trucks to run across pastures in return for donated bank stabilization. Although NRCS permitted this bank stabilization, it did not require use of federal funds.
January 26. David Hatfield chaired a community meeting so that Ron Whitehead and Lance Smith could present an overview of the erosion control plan and to answer questions from the audience. They emphasized the need for affected property owners to sign easements allowing workers access to the work sites.
In February, the Army Corps approved the NRCS plan for Rockville and gave NRCS and the County a one-year emergency permit. Considering the flood water volume and speed, the NRCS determined that the more ecologically acceptable soft armoring of the banks would not work since it would be blown out with the next flood just as the stream side Cottonwoods had been in the December flood. Given the time constraints of spring snow melt that might erode more banks and threaten homes, the NRCS selected boulder berms as the most suitable alternative as was stated by Lance Smith at the March Town Council meeting. During the erosion control work it has come to light that before the flood a miscellany of objects (old cars, tires, cable, slabs of concrete, tree trunks, refrigeration equipment, etc., had been embedded in the stream banks along much of the river to prevent bank erosion. Most of these objects were carried downstream.
At all three work sites, the erosion control work did require temporarily moving the river out of its channel. After the berms are in place, the river will be allowed to resume its former course with the exception of Center Street to Arnold segment where the NRCS determined that a gentle arc from east to west would manage the flow of water and allow the new berm to link to the Arnold/Harlan rip/rap wall that has been in place since the 2005 flood (For the record I still lose 2/3 of my former pasture and vineyard).
Please let me emphasize a few points. During and following a flood, the State has given the authority for action to County governments. Projects that are approved by the County/ NRCS must be approved by the Army Corps. Oversight for the County/Federal projects is the NRCS, with a final review by the Army Corps, not your local mayor. During responses to flood emergencies (as determined by the County), local ordinances do not apply (this was checked with the attorney for the Utah League of Cities and Towns). Although Rockville asked for flood assistance, and even accepted the responsibility for modest funding shortfall (this was not needed) it did not develop nor approve the erosion control plan, nor were we given funds (the County hired the contractor, dispersed the funding, and negotiated with Rockville landowners for easements and for major donations of boulder material).
Although the project is nearing completion, much work remains for Rockville and your help is needed. Additional willows need to be planted along the river, and possible use of Cottonwoods if they can be maintained so as not to fall and block the river. A number of obstacles still remain in the river including cables and tires that may catch logs floating downstream. Possible problem areas along the river need to be mapped and evaluated for possible remediation, for example, the mouth of Huber Wash which could erode and threaten the Sewer Lagoons.
Let's look at the positive. As a result of the river work, several homes have been protected from similar floods. The Rockville Bridge on which many residents depend has also been protected. Discussions about the river have led to more participation in matters that affect Rockville. Please note that agendas for all Council meetings, as well as approved Minutes, are and have been available at the posting locations. The approved minutes are also available on the town website: http://site.infowest.com/personal/r/rockville/.
I am placing an update on the erosion control work on next Wednesday's Town Council agenda. You are welcome to speak or ask questions. This is the time for positive suggestions not on-going questions that have been addressed repeatedly in the last four Town Council meetings and our January community meeting.
Allen Brown, Mayor, Town of Rockville
April 9, 2011