County addresses flood water issue
Carbon County commissioners are looking at the issue of managing drainage systems in various parts of the county.
Elected officials and staff members indicate that they have no long-term solution to a problem that affects many areas within the county.
The issue relates to what to do with storm water between the point it is collected, usually on private property, and the point where it flows into a canal or river.
In the course of the flows, drainage channels may cross private land as well as and run along the edges of county roads.
Both situations are problematic as access to some areas may be limited by property rights and questions relating to rights of way exist in both cases.
Silt and sand fill up the bottom of ditches and fill in temporary holding ponds. Debris can collect at various points along the system.
That requires maintenance, often in areas that the county may not have access.
At a county commission meeting on June 15, Carbon officials looked at how to best manage a situation that is occurring in the Spring Glen area.
Certain flood channels in the area are filling in with debris and are no longer adequate to handle the water that in generated during a heavy rainfall.
As a result, the water backs up on private land and near public roads.
More recently, at a July 6 commission meeting, county officials looked at a similar issue near Old Wellington Road.
Angelo Kiahtipes made a request through the county's planning and zoning board to subdivide a parcel of land located near 2000 East and 1400 South.
Kiahtipes has complied with planning and zoning requests as they relate to storm water channels within the subdivisions.
A holding pond will collect water from the subdivision, and will release it slowly into a drainage system that will convey the water to the Price River.
The holding pond serves to hold water in storms, so that heavy downpours don't overwhelm drainage channels in the area.
As areas around the county are developed, the normal flow of storm water is often disrupted.
Roofs, driveways and roads increase the amount of runoff. Since water isn't absorbed by the ground, it is channeled into county drainage.
Also as areas are subdivided and people build homes and businesses, those areas often see a change as to their topography.
Ground is built up, removed or otherwise changed. In that process, the natural drainage of water in the area is changed.
As a result, county planning and zoning officials require developers to accommodate the changes to the land by building temporary flood water holding basins within the developments.
But the holding pond only controls drainage from the subdivision and the release of that runoff into other drainage systems.
For instance, from the pond at the Kiahtipes' subdivision, the drainage system crosses private land and travels under the Old Wellington Road.
The drainage system then follows the Old Wellington Road to U.S. Highway 6 and finally flows into the Price River.
The questions about that route are not so much related to Kiahtipes' subdivision or the holding pond as they are to the issue of who will maintain the drainage channels from the pond to the river.
Commissioner Bill Krompel expressed his concern over what happens when drainage basins and water routes need to be maintained.
The ditches and ponds need to be cleaned and silt and sand that builds up needs to be removed.
If the county chooses to maintain those systems, they need permission from whoever the private landowner may be.
That issue is central to the drainage issues in the Spring Glen area.
As the drainage systems in that area age, residents have informed the county that they are now inadequate to handle runoff.
County commissioners who have looked at the Spring Glen issue have said they would like to help alleviate the problem.
However, as Carbon County Attorney Gene Strate pointed out, that creates some questions as to handling the future maintenance of those drainage systems.
If the county chooses to obtain a one-time permission to enter the areas where the drainage system flows, there are questions of liability after the county leaves.
Also, since the water routes are part of a drainage system and are not used to convey water for irrigation, they are not usually considered to have prescriptive rights of way.
Carbon commissioners and county planners agreed that the better solution would be to obtain an easement for the maintenance of the drainage ditches and holding ponds.
But implementing the preferred solution basically takes Carbon government back to a bigger long-term problem, which is the issue of county rights of way.
Dave Levanger, the county's planning director, pointed out that the issue of drainage isn't over even after water reaches a county road and flows into drainage systems that run along the edges of those roads.
Many of the county's roads are on land which is not owned by the county, Levanger summarized. He pointed out that if a road is not on county land, neither are the drainage channels that run alongside it.
"You're not going to solve this problem until the county owns its roads," said Levanger.
County officials were quick to point out that some of the areas that have adequate drainage systems and are maintained correctly are some of the more recent subdivisions and developments. Requiring developers to build holding ponds and handle drainage has alleviated some of the problem.
"Let me know where you have drainage problems and we'll go put a subdivision there," joked Kiahtipes.
The question of how to handle drainage issues throughout the county was not settled in the meeting. County commissioners agreed that the issue will have to be addressed on a case by case basis. They also agreed that a more long-term solution to the drainage and right of way issues in the county needs to be developed.