SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - City leaders in Santa Clara knew their dam didn’t have the latest upgrades.
But it did pass state inspections year after year.
“For 93-years it’s performed admirably for the city,” says Mayor Rick Rosenberg.
Three inches of rain within a few hours Tuesday changed all that. They say that amount of rain is normal for a year, not a day. The dam didn't stand a chance and burst.
“All the water came down very fast and filled it fast and then we saw seepage,” Rosenberg says.
The dam was built in 1919 but state officials say it passed inspection in April.
“There were some brush and rodents burrowing along the berm that needed to be taken care of,” says assistant state engineer Dave Mable.
City leaders were making plans to upgrade it.
“It was on a list of projects, there are ten on the list and they haven't been prioritized yet," Rosenberg says.
He says the dam more than likely doesn’t meet 2012 standards. But he says the dam was grandfathered when newer standards were required.
State officials label Santa Clara's dam as high risk. But it doesn't mean it's in bad shape.
“If a dam were to fail, if it were to put life or substantial amount of property at risk, it’s considered a high hazard dam,” Mable says.
In fact there are hundreds of high risk dams in Utah. But Mable says the last major breech was in the 1980’s.
Last year the federally operated Causey dam in Weber County created problems downstream.
A heavy spring runoff caused the dam to spill over flooding rivers and homes.
According to the state’s Division of Water Rights: www.waterrights.utah.gov
it offers a complete inventory of these high risk dams as well as moderate and low level risk dams.
In Washington County there are 16 high risk dams. In Salt Lake County there are 26. Davis County has 25 and Utah County 21.
State officials say that because of their risk, emergency evacuation plans are required.
“This is a really good example of an implementation of an emergency action plan that got people out of the way,” Mable says.
But he says there's no daily monitoring of dams or devices that give off early warnings.
“It's a matter of somebody seeing that the dam is under distress which is what happened in this case," says Mable.
As for the Santa Clara dam, city officials now are faced with the prospect of having to reconstruct the entire dam.
“We’re no looking at total reconstruction,” Rosenberg says.