WASHINGTON COUNTY – Flood events in Washington County have taken a toll the last few years and to help mitigate flood damage, the county’s cities banded together to form the Washington County Flood Control Authority in September 2011, which has eased all of their burdens.
Since the Virgin and Santa Clara rivers run through more than one city, the Flood Control Authority was established to provide a pool of funding for flood control measures along the rivers and for regional flood control facilities, such as debris basins and storm detention basins, to be improved and maintained, said Santa Clara City Councilman Jerry Amundsen, a member of the authority’s executive committee.
It is an interlocal cooperative between Washington County, St. George, Washington City, and Santa Clara, who are all participating, voting members. The authority is governed by an executive committee made up of elected officials from the three cities and a technical advisory committee, which includes city staff members involved in public works. Hurricane and Ivins are participating but nonvoting members.
The FCA’s mission is to deal with overlapping areas of drainage and facilities that impact more than one municipality, St. George City Engineer Jay Sandberg said. Sandberg serves as chair of the agency’s technical advisory committee. The Flood Control Authority utilizes existing manpower and resources from each of its member cities to keep expenses minimal, he said.
For instance, the amount of assessment fees collected by a smaller city such as Santa Clara would pale in comparison to that collected by St. George, Amundsen said.
“Construction or maintenance of regionally significant facilities would take a smaller city many years to fund — which could be too late,” he said.
That was perfectly illustrated approximately two years ago when the Laub Pond detention facility in Santa Clara failed during a significant storm event.
“We were able to receive FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) funding for replacement of the facility and to cover damages to city-owned infrastructure,” he said.
But the governmental assistance comes with a 20 percent match requirement, Amundsen said, and Santa Clara is not able to hold a significant amount of money in reserve, so the city would have struggled to come up with the match amount. Additionally, the facility had to be constructed immediately before another significant storm, otherwise the downstream homes would remain unprotected and be at risk of additional flooding, Amundsen explained.
“Being associated with the flood control authority enabled us to tap into that funding pool and pay for the federal match,” he said. “The Laub Pond facility was reconstructed before the potential heavy rain season started the following summer.”
FEMA covered 75 percent of the cost to rebuild Laub Pond while the FCA was in charge of the remaining 25 percent, Sandberg said.
In addition to Laub Pond, other projects the authority has worked on include the Washington Fields drainage and trailways project, which covers 22 square miles of drainage between Washington and St. George cities, Sandberg said. The agency has also worked on the Stucki Farm flood basin and rebuilt the lower Tuacahn basin. The authority applies for and facilitates grants from the government and other sources to help fund such projects, he said.
The FCA has also worked on parts of the Virgin River channel common to both St. George and Washington City, Sandberg said, including tamarisk and sediment removal, revegetation and the coordination and funding of improvements and maintenance on the flood control walls built by the Natural Resource Conservation Service after the 2005 flood.
“The flood control authority simply allows Washington County and the associated cities a conglomerated benefit,” Amundsen said. “Rather than taking on flood control issues by ourselves, with limited expertise and resources, we can pull from experience, training, and resources established by the combined group.”
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