By Sara Price
During the Emery County Commission meeting on Aug. 13, Ray Peterson explained the status of the debris basin in Huntington Canyon. Recent events leading to the canyon’s main road washing out has everyone concerned.
The basins were constructed after the Seeley Fire in an effort to filter out debris such as loose rocks, trees and sediment which clogs up the river way and blocks culverts. Due to the unique topography of the canyon, such as steep canyon walls and restrictions on side drainage, standard methods typically used in post fire areas could not be used here.
The debris basins were considered the answer. The forest service has worked closely with other departments including Emery and Carbon counties, Utah State Department of Transportation, irrigation companies, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources as well as local water conservation districts to complete this project.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, basins work by effectively filtering water, locking away debris from the river system. They were however, only considered as a single disaster measure. Heavy flooding this summer taxed the basins ability to filter out debris and washed out the road in Huntington Canyon again.
Though the flooding was not as serious this year as last due to the basins, more work is needed. Peterson believes that the flood season is at an end and if the basins can hold for two more weeks, Emery County will be in the clear for the remainder of the year.
Peterson stated during the meeting that the basins have held up surprisingly well, cutting down flooding and debris from approximately 1800 cubic feet per second last year to 500 cubic feet per second this year. Still, more work is needed.
The commissioners will consider whether or not the basins should be rebuilt for future seasons. Huntington Canyon is healing from the damage caused by the fire. Natural vegetation is growing back and is important in preventing debris from washing into the river. This progress does take time.
County lawyer David A. Blackwell is working on the site access agreement between Emery County and Pacificorp. The agreement would allow the use of property for the disposal and fill generated from the construction and maintenance of the Huntington debris basin. Blackwell hopes the agreement will be ready by the next commission meeting.
For the time being, it remains unseen if the basins will be rebuilt or if nature will be left to take its course.