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Huntington mayor hoping to prevent major flooding

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 23 2013 11:35 a.m. MST

Huntington Creek in Emery County is frozen Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013. But come spring, it could cause some flooding in the area. Huntington Mayor Hilary Gordon is looking to prevent flooding by finding a way to fund the removal of debris and digging out the creek beds.

Alex Cabrero, Deseret News

HUNTINGTON, Emery County — Huntington Creek is barely a creek right now. It’s frozen over in most places.

But every time Huntington Mayor Hilary Gordon looks at it, she gets worried.

"I'm sort of looking at trying to prevent disaster," Gordon said. “We know there's going to be flooding this next spring."

Her fears are stem from the damage left behind after a wildfire this past summer. The Seeley Fire began with a lightning strike on June 26 and tore through Huntington Canyon. The wildfire, which forced evacuations in the area, was not contained until July 18. It burned more than 48,000 acres. After a couple of heavy rainstorms, tons of silt and rocks were left in the creek beds leading into Huntington.

Gordon said when the spring thaw happens, the creek beds are already full of debris, and all that water will flow into town and into nearby homes, businesses and farms.

She said digging out the creek beds and removing the debris will prevent flooding. Engineers said the work can be done, but it’ll cost roughly $800,000.

Gordon said the city can't afford to take out a loan for that much money, so she’s turning to the state of Utah for assistance.

"We have been working on this for about three or four months now trying to get funding to assist us,” Gordon said. “They're listening, but I don't think they're really hearing."

A couple of the business owners whose businesses sit in the lower part of Huntington said they were not concerned about flooding, but they also admitted they had not heard too much about any flooding potential.

That's where state Sen. David Hinkins, R-Orangeville, comes in. He's planning on introducing a bill in the upcoming legislative session to get funding for the project.

"We've got some real issues here," Hinkins said. “This is going to flood, and it could wipe out 20 homes along the river, if the river was to change channels and go down some old channels or something like that. We really have to do something to prevent it."

Hinkins, who represents the affected area in Emery County, is also concerned about a logjam up Huntington Canyon. A 900-foot, 6-foot deep log jam is full of trees that fell from the wildfire.

When the water comes down, those trees could take out bridges and maybe even Huntington's drinking water line, he said. “Huntington could be without drinking water for a long time if that happens."

Of course, Gordon knows the flooding might not happen. However, she wonders if a little money up front will save millions of dollars if the area does flood.

"You know that old saying, ‘An ounce of prevention is better than a ton of cure?’ I really believe this is true," she said.

E-mail: acabrero@ksl.com, Twitter: ksl_alexcabrero

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