Flooding begins as weather turns warm
Maybe some day, decades from now, Jake Lee will take his grandchildren to a grassy pasture in southeast Wellington and tell them about the time his Dad, Adam, took him out in a kayak on a lake that used to be there.
It's an event to remember, as this season's runoff is shaping up to be an event for many other people to recall.
The surge in the Price River as runoff accelerates has flooded the 15 acre area owned by Jake Mead to a depth of about three feet. Mead said Tuesday that water had flooded the lowland about 15 years ago, but it was only about a foot deep then. At Farnham Dam, the Price River has created a small Niagara Falls, complete with downstream rapids.
Chilly, wet weather during the spring has slowed the snowmelt so far, but temperatures are climbing.
The silver domes of the Price River Water Improvement District's Wellington waste water treatment plant can be seen from Mead's flooding farm. Water has been encroaching on the outskirts there.
PRWID general manager Jeff Richens said Wednesday that the district had sent a trackhoe out to clear debris that has been slowing and diverting the flow of the swollen river. The trackhoe itself got caught in the current but was rescued without damage.
"It's running strong and it's coming at us fast," Richens said.
There are several contributors to the torrential flows, especially downstream of Helper, he explained.
First of all, the runoff of the White River and Willow Creek is unrestricted by any dams. These tributaries are already swollen and dumping into the Price. The White River, in particular, has turned the region just above the confluence with the Price into a broad swamp.
Second, the Bureau of Reclamation is releasing water from Scofield Dam at a rate of 250 cubic feet per second. That measure is to provide enough capacity in the reservoir to handle the volume of water coming in from snowmelt.
Richens said the latest reports he has heard predict that the lake level could hit the spillway between June 4 and 11.
While Richens and others and PRWID are keeping close watch on their plants at Castle Gate and Wellington, as well as pipes that cross the river, Jason Llewelyn is on the phone almost constantly with official weather watchers and emergency services responders across eastern Utah. Llewelyn, who directs the county's emergency services and Homeland Security efforts, said Wednesday he is receiving updates almost hourly from the National Weather Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
He explained that he is in touch with his counterparts in Duchesne, Emery and Grand counties. "We're all affected by about the same factors," he said.
Llewelyn said his department has been placing updates on the county's website as well as on Facebook and Twitter to keep the public and public officials aware of the developing situation.
You can reach the counties website by going to sunad.com and by using the online service directory at the bottom of the Sun Advocate web page.