Isn’t everyone along the Wasatch Front groaning… “Enuf snow!”. Well, except for very happy skiers, I guess! What I’m grinding my teeth about is not the weather but what is surely coming this spring-FLOODS! Back in May in 1983 Salt Lake County declared a water emergency after a crazy wet winter the year before and in ’83 and had to divert rising waters from Red Butte, Emigration and Parley’s Creeks as temperatures warmed up fast and snow melted even faster. Unfortunately, city officials kinda overlooked City Creek in Memory Grove Park below the state capitol building and well, the ‘State Street River’ was born. City officials reached out to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to call on it’s members to help fill sandbags on a 90-degree Memorial Day weekend that year along State Street. Those not sandbagging became kayakers and sidewalk fisherman (yes, they caught trout on the watery street) or helped built pedestrian bridges to get over the floodwaters.
Folks ask me if we’re going to see main roads under water in our big cities and my answer is simple: yes, there will be stormwater/snowmelt and hopefully the remediation cities did back then will hold this Spring and early summer. Flood prevention since the ‘80’s has seen cities and towns add bigger culverts and storage ponds-many of which look like small pocket parks that are lower than street level. These ‘bioretention areas (aka ‘rain gardens’ in desert climes) help slow the flow so hopefully it will infiltrate to the ground. Smaller versions are found in parking islands and street medians.
We want snowmelt to get to the Great Salt Lake and other reservoirs in the state. WE ALL CAN help in our everyday activities to make a huge difference in getting the water to where it needs to go and to help with water quality. Homeowners and businesses can collect trash around their properties weekly, making sure that cigarette butts and trash, Fall’s leftover leaves and grass clippings don’t get in the gutters but in dumpsters and appropriate trash receptacles. It is illegal to wash your sidewalks into the gutters, mainly because oils, industrial wastes, human and animal feces, detergents, fertilizer and pesticides will contaminate the runoff. Sadly, I’ve seen businesses and even Gateway Mall regularly power wash sidewalks into gutters when the temperatures are warmer.
If you see or suspect anyone or any business illegally dumping or spilling into the storm drains, gutters or the sewer system call the stormwater hotlines/departments in Salt Lake City: 801-483-6729, South Salt Lake: 801-412-3245, Utah County: 801-851-7873, Ogden: 801-622-2900 and St. George: 435-627-4142. It is so important that we try and keep the quality of the storm waters and snow melts for the health of our waterways, reservoirs, and lakes.