Trouble in the canyons: the threat of swelling creeks

Local News

Springtime runoff is rushing down the canyons and could potentially make its way into the backyards of tens of thousands of homes in the Salt Lake Valley.

On the heels of one of the snowiest winters in Utah history, and with springtime temperatures rising into the eighties, the people who live in or near the mouths of the canyons, along the Wasatch Front, are worried.

“We used to only get a hundred inches up there,” says John Robert Morgan. “Now, who knows?”

The 79-year-old Millcreek man has lived in his home, just below the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon, since 1974. He says he sees the signs of a wet Spring, one that threatens to flood his property.

“Right over here.”

Morgan took ABC4 through the woods, beside his house, to show us a bend in the creek. It’s there, he says, that a neighboring land owner took out tons of rocks a few years ago and moved them. Morgan says that left his property vulnerable, so he took emergency action. 

“There was nothing holding back high water anymore. Me and a couple of the boy scouts built it in here,” he says, as he stands on a 3′ tall rock wall, beside the rushing creek. “It took us three years to rebuild it back.”

Then, this year, Morgan says he’s building the rock wall even higher because the threat is greater.

“I’ve been working on it, I guess, just three weeks, building it up a little more because of the snowpack this year.”

When asked what he thinks the odds are of Big Cottonwood Creek cresting its banks, his walls and flooding his property this Spring, Morgan shakes his head.

“If the heat gets to the nineties, I think it would. I think it’d come over, and that’s why I’m going to get some sand bags ready.”

The 79-year-old land owner says he thinks he may get some of the worst flooding he’s seen. That includes June of 2010, when the water rushed down Big Cottonwood so fast, it flooded downtown Murray, inundating Murray City Park, and flooded dozens of homes, businesses, and government buildings along its banks. It even submerged State Street for two days.

City officials in Murray and Sandy, at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon, say they’ve been sandbagging for weeks, and they think their communities are ready for this year’s flooding.

For his part, John Robert Morgan, says he’s going to pray Mother Nature spares him.

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