Salt Lake City crews trade in desk work for 24/7 flood watch

May 4, 2023, 6:15 AM | Updated: Oct 19, 2023, 10:44 am

"Stream Team" (KSL-TV)...

"Stream Team" (KSL-TV)


SALT LAKE CITY — Watching the creeks and rivers in Salt Lake is a 24 hour 7 day a week operation that is being handled by what they call “The Stream Team.”

The crews come from the Salt Lake City Public Utilities department and are usually working office jobs not walking along river banks.

“6 p.m. to 6 a.m. The whole night. We don’t stop. We keep an eye on everything. About 24 hour stops tonight,” Araceli Arche said as she checked on one location along emigration creek.

Arche usually works in customer service. But she loves a change of pace to be checking river crates to make sure they are not clogging up with debris.

“It’s a good piece of mind for me and for others,” Arche said.

Working along side her is Dave Ward, who is an investigator with the public utilities department, not a river watcher.

“No,” he said with a laugh. “We are getting used to it. Really at any moment we could have a root ball or massive debris come down and clog it right away.”

There is high tech equipment and stream gages that monitor the rivers and creeks, but Laura Briefer, the director of Salt Lake City’s Public Utilities department, said nothing beats actual eyes on the waters to know exactly what is happening.

“It’s our responsibility to make sure we provide good information to the community. The community is very concerned about risk [of flooding],” she said. “An extraordinary snowpack like this requires an extraordinary reaction.”

If the “stream team” finds something, they call Scott Swanger’s crew to come get the debris out. Swanger is the storm water manager for the department.

“It’s kind of a never ending tale of debris,” he said. “The way we are handling it is top one this year. We’ve made a lot of changes we’ve made a lot of improvements and we have a bigger team.”

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Salt Lake City crews trade in desk work for 24/7 flood watch