Salt Lake City mayor talks flooding preparation and prevention

Apr 11, 2023, 7:00 PM | Updated: Apr 13, 2023, 12:21 pm


FILE: A sand bag wall protects property on a Bountiful, Utah street in 1983 amid historic flooding. (Photo: Orland Call, Deseret News Archive)

(Photo: Orland Call, Deseret News Archive)

SALT LAKE CITY — The mayor of Salt Lake City talks about learning lessons from 40 years ago and applying them to potential flooding this spring.

Mayor Erin Mendenhall joins Dave & Dujanovic to discuss flooding preparations ahead of the biggest potential spring runoff since 1983 when downtown State Street was transformed into a river. During this, pedestrians walked over a wooden bridge to reach the other side of the street.

In 1984, Salt Lake County officials installed two catch basins. One at the mouth of City Creek Canyon and the other about 100 feet away on the southern side of Bonneville Boulevard in the Avenues neighborhood of north Salt Lake City.

Salt Lake City mayor discusses improvements to ease flooding

Mayor Mendenhall spoke Monday at a media event in City Creek Canyon:

” . . . in 1983, the spring runoff that happened met a storm drain that was supposed to carry City Creek down through the downtown, down North Temple. It actually became clogged with debris that extended for four city blocks — four blocks of debris. And that massive backup is part of what caused the water to ultimately run down State Street.”

At the event Monday, the mayor said the catch basins were clear of any debris. Along with this, she said the water level was low and the creek flowed freely.

“. . . in the coming weeks [there] will be a large-armed tractor, boom tractor, parked right there by these catchment facilities, scraping out any of the debris that comes down.”

Lessons today from flooding of 1983

Ted Wilson was the Salt Lake City mayor during the 1983-84 floods and still works with the city today.

“You alluded to this briefly in your news conference yesterday that perhaps his administration left either some notes or a how-to-deal-with-a-flood after the fact,” Debbie said. “Is there anything like — a playbook of sorts — that has played into your administration’s planning?”

“Yeah, they actually even produced a video on the ’83 and ’84 flooding about what the causes were, what needed to be done with the infrastructure. And that obviously is still available, but it’s helped in perpetuity to help us plan,” Mayor Mendenhall said.

She added Wilson serves on the city Public Utilities Advisory Board today.

“As we saw these snowpack numbers continue to rise over even the early parts of winter, we had planning efforts underway the entire time,” the mayor said. ” . . . and that wisdom from the Ted Wilson administration is still helping us out.”

As the record snowpack continues to melt, creeks and streams will undoubtedly rise.

“But we feel at this point that if the weather continues to warm slowly that we can manage that flow,” Mayor Mendenhall said.

Sandbags available

“Mayor, are there any specific neighborhoods that you are most worried about? ” Debbie asked.

“There are areas on the west side of Salt Lake City where there is a higher water table normally and where there are basements that actually, typically have some water seeping in,” the mayor said. “Those areas may have more water simply because of the amount of snowmelt that we’ve put into the ground over the last couple of months and even quite recently.”

She added if you live in the city near a creek, contact Salt Lake City Public Utilities and find out how to obtain sandbags and other steps to mitigate potential flooding.

Related reading


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Salt Lake City mayor talks flooding preparation and prevention