Spring City partners with irrigation
company to prevent flooding
By Doug Lowe
SPRING CITY—Some day in the future, possibly three or four years from now, the area’s homeowners, farmers and other citizen may come to appreciate the fact that Mike Black, Spring City’s deputy treasurer, wears two hats: one as a city official, the other as an irrigation company board member.
Months ago, while wearing his hat as a leader of the Horseshoe Irrigation Company, Black became interested in a water-related grant program offered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. He saw that NRCS funding could be used for construction projects benefitting home owners and farmers, while also improving protection against flash flooding.
With such a project in mind, Black donned his hat as a city official and took an idea to Spring City’s newly-elected Mayor Cynthia DeGrey. In essence, Black’s idea was for the city to partner with one or more of the area’s irrigation companies and obtain an NRCS grant for construction that would help prevent flooding and also improve water conservation.
DeGrey liked the idea because she was well aware of the damage done back in 1998 when two flash floods, coming from two different canyons, hit the city within two or three days of each other. She also knew that since then so much more construction had taken place that the next such flood could cause much greater devastation—possibly even the loss of life.
Soon afterward, with the blessing of city council and Horseshoe Irrigation Company, DeGrey and Black went to Salt Lake and presented to NRCS officials with the idea of constructing projects, up in Canal Canyon and Oak Creek Canyon, to improve the utilization of spring water there while also mitigating the danger from future floods.
According to DeGrey, “We showed impressive photos of the damaged done by the two 1998 floods, and explained that future flood damage would be far worse.” Two factors, the urgent need to prevent flooding combined with the city’s designation as a national historic district, apparently convinced the NRCS to invite the quick submission of a grant proposal that could be considered during the agency’s 2020 funding cycle.
Describing the result of their presentation to NRCS, Black explained, “They liked our rough ideas so much we were allowed to jump ahead of other funding requests, so our proposal could possibly be approved this year.” However, getting a proposal written and submitted before the deadline was not going to be easy.
Acting quickly, the city published an official request for the services of an engineering firm qualified to prepare the needed grant proposal in a hurry. Perhaps because of the tight timing, only one firm, J-U-B Engineers, Inc., replied to the city’s advertisement.
“With J-U-B being the only firm that responded,” DeGrey explains, “I carefully checked their references.” After she called three former clients in Utah and another one in Wyoming, and received positive feedback, DeGrey felt it safe to allow J-U-B to proceed. Happily, in quick order they had the needed proposal finished and ready for submission, before the tight deadline.
According to Bryce Wilcox, the project’s coordinator at J-U-B, “Getting the proposal submitted is just the first step in a very long process.” The time table laid out by Wilcox has three long phases after the proposal is approved by NRCS.
Upon such approval, the second step, which can take some 18 months, involves conducting mandated environmental impact studies and public hearings. Then, drawing upon the information gained in that environmental process, design and engineering work, taking from 12 to 18 months, can begin. In the final phase, contractor bids are solicited, with the winning contractor going to work and completing within another 12-to-24 month, as a general rule.
Perhaps the only thing more unclear than the project’s exact timing is its exact cost. Because the proposed project contains many optional parts, the work to be done will depend upon what parts NRCS likes best and is willing to fund at the highest level. As DeGrey will point out, actual flood protection features are “eligible for something like 90 to 100 percent funding.” Work that improves irrigation is funded “at around 70 to 75 percent.” And construction of features to create recreational features received “50 percent” funding.
So, if all goes well, a year or two from now, the city and its irrigation company partners may well face a happy task: the need to decide which parts of their proposal, with the available NRCS grant funding, should be given the highest priority in light of any monies they will need to contribute towards the total cost involved.