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Gov. Herbert declares state of emergency at site of southern Utah flooding

Published: Wednesday, July 29 2015 5:48 a.m. MDT

Gov. Gary Herbert declares a state of emergency for southern Utah areas affected by flooding in Santa Clara on Thursday. (Matt Powers, Deseret News) Gov. Gary Herbert declares a state of emergency for southern Utah areas affected by flooding in Santa Clara on Thursday. (Matt Powers, Deseret News)

SANTA CLARA, Washington County — Gov. Gary Herbert toured a Santa Clara neighborhood impacted by flooding Thursday and declared a state of emergency for Utah.

"My heart goes out to the local residents and families who were impacted by this terrible tragedy," Herbert said. "Recovering from disasters and rebuilding public infrastructure takes partnerships and cooperation. The state of Utah deeply appreciates first responders, local county officials, the countless and inspiring volunteers, as well as FEMA's efforts to help Santa Clara assess the damage so we can begin to rebuild what we have lost."

On Sept. 11, the earthen retention dam holding back Laub Pond was breached following a week of heavy rains. On Thursday, a track hoe was stabilizing the sides of the dam to keep if from collapsing further while city officials make repairs.

Gov. Gary Herbert speaks to media after touring a Santa Clara neighborhood impacted by flooding Thursday. The governor declared a state of emergency. (Matt Powers, Deseret News) Gov. Gary Herbert speaks to media after touring a Santa Clara neighborhood impacted by flooding Thursday. The governor declared a state of emergency. (Matt Powers, Deseret News)

"In a way, it was like a tsunami, and you really couldn't get out of the way," said Carson Bostwick, whose home was destroyed by the flooding.

Sixty-six homes and 18 businesses were damaged with mud and water, along with roads, sidewalks and other infrastructure. Some homes suffered serious structural damage and may have to be condemned and knocked down. 

"It's been tough on them," Santa Clara Mayor Rick Rosenberg said. "They've been cleaning out the basements, and the daily grind … of going down and facing the loss of your possessions and damage to your home is wearing on them."

The mayor said thousands of volunteers have come out and really helped lift the homeowners' spirits.

"People come to each other's aid immediately," Rosenberg said. "Even when the flood was still flowing, there were people coming to each other's aid down in there, and it's been nonstop ever since."

The affected areas of Santa Clara, Ivins and St. George suffered $3.8 million in damages to public infrastructure. Herbert anticipates signing a letter requesting President Barack Obama issue a presidential disaster declaration for the state in the next few weeks.

If approved, Utah would become eligible for federal disaster assistance for public infrastructure. Damage to homes and businesses would not be eligible for federal assistance.

E-mail: jboal@ksl.com

Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company