An angry Washington County Water Conservancy District manager defended the district's decision to build the Quail Creek dike and denounced rumors that district and state officials knew of the instability of the site before the reservoir was built.
Ron Thompson, manager of the water conservancy district, spoke Friday at a meeting of the district board. Gov. Norm Bangerter attended the meeting and was briefed on the progress of an investigating panel he had appointed."We keep hearing rumors about how unsafe the site is, and that we approved the project despite that knowledge," Thompson said. "The fact is we checked and double checked that site with state engineers and others. Those who believe those rumors have their brain idling while their mouth is in high gear."
While Bangerter has signed a state emergency declaration, those affected by the dike breach are still waiting for a federal disaster area declaration from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
"I have received no word on that declaration," Bangerter said at the meeting in the Washington County Commission chambers.
Bangerter said the decision might not be made until after George Bush's inauguration next week.
"I would hope this would not get caught up in the change of guard in Washington," he said, "but it may be that the new president will make the decision."
Bangerter said he didn't think the change of administrations would affect the final outcome.
"I don't think we have any less political influence with the Bush administration than we have with the Reagan people," he said. "I think either administration will simply examine the data they've gathered and make their decision based on that."
He urged residents and business owners who suffered losses resulting from the flood to work toward a friendly resolution of their losses.
"I'm of the opinion that you try to sit down together and work things out before you fight about it," he said. "I think before we start throwing lawsuits around, we need to assess the damages and see what can be done in a friendly and cooperative manner."
More than 200 residents met at the St. George Holiday Inn earlier this week with an attorney to discuss their legal options and consider banding together to initiate a lawsuit.
Bangerter urged residents to give the state some time to complete its investigations.
"Let's take the opportunity to sit down and talk about this thing face to face before we decide to fight," he said. "It's been what - 10 days since this happened? I think all of us need more time."
Bangerter also announced the appointment of Al O'Neil, a geologist from San Francisco, to the panel investigating the Quail Creek failure.
Bangerter had good news for people who use U-9 between St. George and Hurricane.
"The bids on the bridge reconstruction will be opened today," he said, "and we hope to get construction underway immediately."
St. George city has yet to determine what type of bridge will replace the the one on River Road that provided access to the Bloomington Hills area.