By Craig Bennett
Iron County Today
PAROWAN–Flooding due to thunderstorms and the runoff of water mixed with debris and ash from the Brian Head fire continues to cause major problems in the Parowan area.
At the bi-monthly Parowan City Council meeting, Mayor Donald Landes opened the meeting by giving a Parowan Flood update, saying, “We have really suffered a heck of blow to the city. Our budget did not allow for such an expense. We will receive some funds from the National Resources Conservation Services and the Federal Government which should help a great deal. The flooding could not have come at a worse time. It’s the peak of growing season for our gardens and our yards, but we have no choice.”
The mayor stated that he had asked the council members to explore to see if there is any way to help those that have suffered major flood damage to their property. He went on to say that “up to this point, we have not found a way to come up with a fair and equitable answer. But we will continue to look. Some residents are on culinary water alone, pressurized irrigation water is not available due to damage in the infrastructure, and all of this coupled with the fact of where to get the money for repairs is a big problem.”
Several Parowan residents voiced concern that they were still being charged a monthly charge for pressurized irrigation water without being able to use it, but that they did understand the predicament the city is in.
Mayor Landes also said, “This community is underfunded and under budgeted. I have tried during my time in office to try to increase the economic development in the community to be able to increase our revenues. It’s a tough job and unfortunately we have two things against us. We have a problem with location and geography; we are too close to Beaver and too close to Cedar City.”
Nancy Dalton with Parowan City outlined what the city is doing as far as federal funding to help rebuild and repair the infrastructure and other damage caused by the flooding.
She said the city is working with the Federal government, Iron County, and looking at other grants to help obtain money for the repairs. National Emergency Funding has to come through Congress. Luckily, the NRCS budget year ends in September. They were able to come up with dollars in emergency funding that haven’t been used. There is also some funding available for watershed and flood prevention operations.
A coalition they have named the Parowan Valley Water Shed Flood Prevention Conservations Project, which includes Summit and other locations down to the Little Salt Lake, are participating. Iron County will serve as the sponsor. Other organizations that will be involved as partners include BLM, SUU, UDOT, Division of Wildlife Resources, and local communities among others. Dealing with Federal government can be challenging and time consuming, and the time right now is short.
Ken Lambertsen, a homeowner whose home had been damaged by the flood, asked the council if there was anything that could be done to help the families that had been affected by the flooding, such as possibly lowering the taxes on the flooded properties. He also asked the city to widen and deepen the channel running next to his property to allow more water to flow.
In response, Mayor Landes responded, “Ken, you aren’t the only one out there that lost a heck of a lot of money. I appreciate that, I know. Unfortunately, when the Federal government looks at their qualifications, sometimes they don’t fit. Those people, all of you that live along that channel down there were not designated to be living in a flood zone. FEMA had changed that back in about 2009, but you and I both know that it is a flood zone. There is no question about it.”
In response to widening and making the channel wider, Kelly Stones, Parowan Public Works Director said, “there is already a water line underneath the channel that feeds water to the farmers. It’s not that easy just to come in and dig it deeper and widen it. The people downstream will also be affected by the increase in water flow.”
He went on to say the increased water flow could affect downstream all the way to the I-15 freeway that has already been closed twice due to flood water flowing over the roadway. Now it becomes a Utah Department of Transportation issue as to how to get the water under the freeway which also will affect the home and landowners in the valley.
It is a race against Mother Nature at this point before winter sets in. Dealing with the thunderstorms, the Brian Head burn scar and the anticipated runoff from the snowfall this spring could pose a real challenge for those living in the Parowan area.