Flood damage on the 300 S. bridge in August 2022. [Alison Harford/Moab Sun News]

Work projects on Moab’s water and sewer system have been visible throughout the last few months, leading some Moab Sun News readers to reach out and ask: is this infrastructure work or repairs from the historic floods in August 2022?

“We’re still doing flood repair,” said Chuck Williams, Moab city engineer. “That’s not unusual, since we have to not only secure funding for these repairs but then get specialty contractors. That takes time and it’s a busy construction world right now. Moab is hours and hours and hundreds of miles from qualified contractors.” 

The city is currently hiring structural engineers to put in retaining walls and is planning the repair of bridges that were damaged, Williams said. 

This week, crews will begin work on a permanent water line repair at 100 West near the Mill Creek Parkway bike path, which is expected to take about a month to complete. 

“It’s a permanent repair,” Williams said. The city is using horizontal drilling technology to bury the line beneath the creek bottom, replacing the temporary line that has been running over a pedestrian bridge. “That bridge was also damaged.”

City maintenance workers urged residents to respect barriers and fences around work sites, emphasizing the danger these sites hold even when they may look normal. 

“People don’t like to walk around because they’re athletic and think they can walk through. But the reality is that we are trying to protect people,” Williams said. “Someone could get hurt walking over one of the bridges we have marked, and it’s frustrating when people tear barricades down just to avoid walking down.” 

“A five-minute delay can be a problem in Moab but we’ve literally spent thousands of dollars to put up traffic control and it’s torn down and destroyed,” Williams said. “I’m hoping people can respect the barriers.”

Williams noted that the city is still waiting for approval of FEMA emergency funds to make further flood repairs and considering a drainage corridor master plan, but he considers Moab’s position about the same as similar communities built in areas with flood plains. 

“Communities with flood plains have floods, that’s just the truth,” he said. Considering Moab’s aging water and sewer infrastructure, however…

“In terms of water infrastructure, we’re in a worse position than other towns of our size,” Williams said, pointing out that until the Moab City Council raised its water rate, Moab had one of the lowest rates in Utah for years. 

“When you don’t have rates that cover maintenance, things aren’t being replaced or maintained,” Williams said.

The repairs and work in the road along 400 East and Mill Creek Drive that were prominent throughout the last part of 2022 are a good example: Williams said those water lines were “World War II-era.”

That water line replacement is close to being wrapped up, with work in the road completed and sidewalk repair planned for the next two months. But there is still more work to be done to update the city’s aging infrastructure.

“There are two sewer projects in the spring and another water line project,” Williams said. “We’re behind. We’re not alone, though, a lot of towns’ water and sewer infrastructure is in a bad way.”

“Right now we’re on a solid track and kudos to the council for raising rates to allow us to do this work,” he said. “It makes it possible to do maintenance now and into the future.”

This reporting was suggested by a Moab Sun News reader. We rely on our readers to keep us in touch with what’s happening in our community. Have a question we can help answer or a suggestion for a story? Send it to us at moabsunnews.com/send-us-a-story-idea.