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Utah crews dredging waterways, closing campgrounds due to flooding

Thistle, Utah, is seen during 2023's spring runoff flooding on Wednesday, May 17, 2023. The snowmelt from the state's record-breaking snowpack covered Highway 89, leaving it closed for weeks.

Posted on May 22, 2023

As snowmelt fills waterways with silt and debris, creating potential flooding risks across the state, Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) crews are working tirelessly to mitigate the impact.

The effort involves specialized equipment, including an innovative dredging machine, deployed in both active flooding regions and areas with rushing water close to roads.

“Today our crews were dredging a waterway. The water is coming down, and we’re trying to stay in front of it,” said John Gleason, spokesperson for UDOT.

He described the current flood conditions, “It’s caused all sorts of flooding issues where we’ve had three or four feet of standing water.”

The Utah Department of Transportation uses dredging equipment on Wednesday, May 17, 2023, in an attempt to redirect floodwater flowing over Highway 89 in Utah County. The state’s record snowpack melt has had the roadway closed for most of May.

UDOT recently employed the dredging equipment in Spanish Fork, an area that has seen its share of water-related challenges.

“It’s a unique machine and I don’t know that we’ve ever used it before in this way,” Gleason stated.

US-89 near Thistle flooded, causing a road closure.

UDOT dispatched the crane to the site, which gets dropped onto a cable in the water.

“The crane picks up all the loose material, drags it up, and then we deposit it over on the side to clear a channel for the water to flow through,” Gleason said.

The recent flood incident left US-89 with significant erosion damage.

“Our crews are going to be turning their attention from getting the water off of US-89 to now repairing that erosion,” Gleason added.

This year’s runoff has been exceptional, necessitating extensive flood preparation efforts, a significant portion of which includes dredging operations.

“We’re taking extraordinary measures to clear a path through the creek so that the water has a place to go,” said Gleason.

With forecasts predicting temperatures in the 80s in the foreseeable future, UDOT crews were not surprised by the current situation.

While it’s uncertain where the heavy-duty equipment will be deployed next, Gleason says it can go where it’s most needed.

In the southern part of the state, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced at least five campground closures because of the rain, “until further notice”:

  • King’s Bottom Campground
  • William’s Bottom Campground
  • Jaycee Park Campground
  • Hal Canyon Campground
  • Goose Island Campground

According to the National Weather Service, the Colorado River near Cisco, Utah–about 50 miles from Moab–was at 14.53 feet 10 a.m. Thursday, well above it’s Action Stage of 13.3 feet.

While BLM officials said that the campgrounds will be reopened once the water level of the river drops, NWS predicted that the river will continue to rise throughout the week, reaching 15.88 feet by Sunday night.

Officials of BLM said that they may close additional campgrounds as the water levels climb.





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