Message From The Mayor
City Preparations for Spring Runoff
by Mayor Brad Frost
Learn about our flood preparations at https://americanfork.gov/flooding
April 2023 - American Fork City has been preparing for months, making detailed plans, and coordinating with many different agencies to do all we can in advance to prepare for the spring snow melt. While we can’t guarantee anything when it comes to weather and flooding, residents can rest assured that if there is something the city can do to prepare, we are doing it.
In March I participated in an emergency planning meeting with leaders from Utah County, surrounding cities, fire departments, law enforcement agencies including County Sheriffs and Highway Patrol, the forest service, and the American Fork Irrigation Company. The topic of course was emergency planning for the upcoming water runoff season. Specifically, I have been working closely with Utah County and our own irrigation company to address any issues we can in advance to help prepare for the upcoming runoff. Both organizations have pledged to assist as with whatever they can if needed.
After the flood of 1983 American Fork City added a weir & debris basin at the base of American Fork Canyon. This basin is intended to catch any loose tree limbs and debris that wash down from the canyon so it can be removed before entering American Fork City limits. In February, our crews performed an inspection of the weir and debris basin. Along with environmental debris, they often find people’s trash illegally dumped there. Household items such as couches and mattresses are often found in the riverbed and require a coordinated effort to dispose of these items properly. This year, staff encountered enough bagged grass dumped illegally by residents to fill a two-ton truck bed. Due to the amazing efforts of the storm water division, there have been no major backups in years past due to these obstructions. It took some work but the weir and debris basin are cleared out and ready to work properly for spring runoff.
This year American Fork City is partnering with our neighboring cities to make sure we have staff and equipment regularly stationed at the debris basin during the heavier runoff. I am grateful to the dedicated men and women working in our neighboring communities who are also committed to make sure we are as prepared as possible.
In addition to our preparations before any potential runoff reaches American Fork City, we have also done extensive work at mitigating flooding as the river travels through our city. This winter, city crews proactively removed overgrown vegetation and trash in the river throughout the city. We have also been working with Utah county for the portions of the river they control along 100 W south of I-15. This again will reduce the chances of debris clogging the river which is the leading cause of flooding.
The City is paying close attention to areas where the river crosses under roadways. These areas could act as pinch points in the runoff flow. Depending on the location, public works and emergency crews may place K-rail (large concrete barriers, also called jersey barriers) in advance at potential pinch point locations. Should they need to, these staged barriers will allow us to act quickly to direct water flow and minimize flooding. Not all crossings are of high concern, but some are. American Fork City’s police, fire, and public works are working together to monitor the river during daily peak flow times, which is typically around two in the morning. Our crews and equipment will be ready to mobilize at a moments notice.
We haven't identified any areas that should be on high alert right now. We will be watching the AF River and lakeshore closely in the next few months and if we notice anything of concern, we will reach out to residents. While we can't predict where exactly flooding will happen, if it happens at all, we don't expect properties with ditches and irrigation canals on their property to experience flooding. If you see flooding, you can call the Storm Water emergency number at 801-404-7167 to report it. To stay informed about any emergency situations, sign up for AF Notify, the City's emergency notification system, at americanfork.gov/Notify to receive a timely text/email alert.
American Fork City is also prepared with sandbags which we can deploy to areas that may be in urgent need. We will also be providing sand and bags that residents can fill and take with them if needed. Residents can fill their own sandbags at the city’s public works complex located at 275 E and 200 N. Please bring your own shovel. Unless their is a compelling reason otherwise, only residents living close to the river will be eligible for sandbags. We will continue to provide them for free to those in need but we are being more restrictive because we have had a significant number of sandbags going to homes not at risk of flooding or remotely close to the river. We just want to ensure we are being good stewards for these resources and ensuring they go to where it most needed and are available when they are most needed. We ask that residents take only what they need, up to 25 bags per household. If you feel you need more, please contact the public works directly so we can assess how we can best help. We will monitor the sand supply and replenish as needed. For the time being the sand will be available during business hours, M-Th from 7am to 6pm. We may expand those hours as needed.
Finally, residents should be aware of larger regional efforts implemented to help mitigate flooding. For example, after the flooding of 1983 the state added booster pumps in Utah Lake at the mouth of Jordan River. These pumps would push water from Utah Lake into the Jordan River toward Salt Lake. These pumps are designed to pump water once the water level reaches a certain elevation. I have also been in touch with many of the local contractors developing in our community. They have committed to lend their support, including heavy equipment, labor, and even fuel, to assist as needed. These are both additional resources outside of the city’s intended to help mitigate the chances of flooding in our community.
Hopefully this year’s runoff will be a non-issue with temperatures slowly increasing over a long period of time. But we must plan and prepare areas of concern to the greatest extent possible. While there is no way to fully avoid the effects of natural disasters, we are striving to be as ready as possible.