On Aug. 20, 2022, Moab was hit by a record-setting, 100-year flood, which caused enough damage that the city declared a state of emergency. Flood recovery efforts have been ongoing; during a city council meeting on Sept. 13, various departments provided updates.
According to Public Works Director Levi Jones, as of Sept. 13, most street travel lanes have been swept—within the first week after the flood, public works removed 2,300 tons of debris from city streets.
“Cleaning up the flood deposition sediment is different than normal dirt,” said City Engineer Chuck Williams—the flood deposition is fine, sandy silt. “It’s much more difficult for the equipment that we have: it takes several passes to get it done.”
When the flood deposition dries, as it’s been doing over the past few dry weeks, it turns into easily kicked-up dust. Jones said his staff has been wetting down the silt in order to pick it up again. Some bike lanes and parking lots are still not fully cleaned.
Williams said that “critical debris” has been removed: any large tree debris that was lodged upstream of bridges was cleared out, in case of another flood. Williams said also that the new creek channel below 100 W. was fixed—the floodwaters had diverted to the northwest, since the bridge had been overtopped—allowing Mill Creek to return to its usual alignment flowing under 500 W.
“[The bridge] took a beating,” Williams said.
The flood had also destroyed infrastructure along the Mill Creek Parkway, a path along Mill Creek as it wove through town. The parkway was closed indefinitely right after the flood; now, it’s open upstream of 300 S. The city is keeping the parkway downstream closed because it hasn’t been cleared of all hazards yet, Williams said.
“There has been some tremendous clean-up work that Annie [McVay] and all of her volunteers have done, but we’ve got to make sure that it’s safe—we lost handrails, the sidewalk is undermined, and part of that retaining wall has been bent,” Williams said. “We just want to make sure that when we open it up, it’s safe.”
The parkway downstream of 100 W. will take “months and months” to reopen, Williams said, for multiple reasons: that’s where the creek developed a different channel, where the city is currently repairing the damaged waterline, and the structural stability of the bridge is questionable, Williams said. The goal is to have a permanent repair done in the area by Jan. 1.
“We’re trying to work as quick as we can, and we’re trying to protect the public,” Williams said.
Williams also presented the city’s documented damages. Twenty-three homes were either destroyed (two), sustained major damage (three), or were affected (18) by the flood, meaning the city is likely not eligible for Federal Emergency Management Agency funding; 41 businesses reported damage. The estimated total cost for flood recovery, including debris removal, road and bridge damage, water control facilities damage, utilities damage, and recreation facility damage (including all damage to the Mill Creek Parkway), is around $17,600,000.
That amount includes $13,000,000 allocated for water control facilities damage: Williams said $13 million is his estimate for how much it would cost to evaluate the Mill and Pack creek corridors and “bring them up to some level of a drainage system,” Williams said; at a council meeting just after the flood, he suggested the same idea. The drainage system could be a combination of riparian corridors, extra protection around bridges, or debris basins—anything that could help the city avoid another flood event like the one in August.
The total number—$17,600,000—doesn’t yet include costs associated with emergency protective measures and buildings and equipment damage.
The city has talked to multiple agencies about flood recovery funding, including FEMA and the Natural Resources Conservation Services. But funding has been tricky to get: both agencies require a 25% match, if the city qualifies for funding at all, Williams said.
The city also reached out to the Federal Highway Administration, which has an emergency relief program for sites that had already received federal aid, but to qualify, there had to have been over $750,000 in out-of-pocket damage. Williams said he does think the city sustained over $750,000 in damage, but he’s not sure yet how much insurance will cover, meaning the funding is still up in the air.
“There’s no free money,” Williams said.
Mayor Joette Langianese said she’s been in touch with state representatives, who are enthusiastic about helping out once the city knows what it needs after any federal funding is allocated.
Councilmember Rani Derasary asked about the timeline—Williams said everything hinges on the insurance company.
“As soon as we get an evaluation from the insurance company that says what’s covered, and we agree upon the costs they’ll reimburse us for, then we’ll know what we qualify for from the other agencies,” he said. The insurance company is doing a site assessment the week of Sept. 19, Williams said, which will get the ball rolling.
“For the public—I know everybody’s anxious, I know everybody wants things to be back to normal,” Langianese said. “But they’re not … public safety is still a really important issue, and that’s why we’d prefer people stay out of [flood damaged] areas until we can get in there and clean them up a little bit. Please be patient. When areas are closed, they’re closed.”