Portions of Highway 191 in Dry Valley, Highway 211 in Indian Creek canyon, and Highway 95 between Blanding and Hite all had flood damage over the past week. Traffic on Highway 191 was stopped for several hours near Church Rock on September 14 when floods swept over the roadway.
In addition the damage to major highways, a number of county roads also experienced damage due to flooding. On September 16, San Juan County Commissioners heard a brief update about the impact of recent flooding on county roads, including roads at Gypsum Creek near Halchita, Three-Step Hill, White Rocks, Oljato and Hatch Trading Post.
Commissioner Bruce Adams explained that the county road department has received many requests from residents to repair road damage.
“We are doing our best to take care of all of our road problems that we know about,” said Adams. “We ask for people to be patient. We will get to them as quickly as we can.”
Adams said he appreciates the efforts of the road department and their response to the emergency situations.
The storms brought flooding and damage to a number of backcountry roads, and in the process, disrupted several of the trail rides for the San Juan ATV Safari. Flash flooding damaged areas of Arch Canyon and temporarily stranded several travelers.
In addition, some backcountry roads in Canyonlands National Park were damaged, as were hiking trails at Rainbow Bridge National Monument. Rainbow Bridge is closed until the trails can be repaired.
As a result, Commissioners discussed the need on September 16 to switch from a drought emergency that has plagued the county to a flood emergency.
“We are in pretty good shape right now, with the exception of culinary water reservoirs,” explained Emergency Services Director Rick Bailey.
“The situation for agriculture situation is good, but water storage is still rough. If we don’t get a good snow pack this winter, our culinary systems may be in trouble.”
In other matters at the September 17 meeting, Commissioners gave guidance to Bailey for the Homeland Security grant. The grant provides approximately $210,000 to be split between San Juan and Grand counties.
One quarter of the grant is set aside for equipment purchases, which includes night vision equipment for San Juan County.
The second portion of the grant will be used to secure or update satellite equipment for two command posts owned by the county. A GPS unit for the county airplane and a complete overhaul of the plane’s dashboard is also under consideration.
In addition to using the federal grant, the county is also considering using funds in capital budgets from the San Juan County general fund for portions of the projects.
Bailey reports that funding for the Safe Rural Schools (SRS) grant is expected to dry up. A key vote on the SRS grant is scheduled this week in Congress.
If the funding expires, Bailey discussed the need to designate how the remaining funds in the grant will be spent.
Commissioners also approved a pre-disaster mitigation plan at the September 16 meeting. The plan would be used as an organizing document in the case of a natural disaster. It covers the four counties in southeast Utah.
The plan entirely removed a section regarding waste at White Mesa Mill that was included in a previous version of the plan. A few additional adjustments, recommended by the City of Blanding, were also approved.
Bailey said the Commission needed to approve the document in order to be eligible for FEMA assistance in case of a natural disaster.