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Posted 5/2/2017

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By Terri A. Rorke

If you want to build resistance to floods, you first need a team with a plan.

That’s why the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District and interagency partners are building a floodplain management plan with the Skull Valley Goshute Tribe in Utah.

The Skull Valley Reservation—which rests south of the Great Salt Lake and at the base of Stansbury Mountain Range—has experienced increased flash flooding in recent years, causing damage to property and land.

Despite the Goshute Tribe’s efforts to reduce flood risk in the valley, a 2013 and 2014 wildfire exacerbated flood activity. One past flood event reportedly sent debris flow nearly four miles throughout the reservation and deposited debris at the base of homes and flowed within reach of nearby Highway 196.

With awareness of this flooding history and a common flood resiliency goal, Sacramento District partnered with the Goshute Tribe to assemble an interagency Silver Jackets team to develop the flood management plan.

The Corps’ Floodplain Management Services program makes it possible for the Sacramento District to work on the plan through Silver Jackets—a state-chartered program that allows interagency representatives to combine diverse resources, capabilities and authorities to find effective flood-risk management solutions tailored for communities’ specific needs.

“It is an incredible opportunity to use our authority in a way that reaches smaller communities in need,” said Sacramento District water resources planner Hunter Merritt, one of the planners for the Skull Valley plan.
In April, the Goshute Tribe hosted a technical advisory meeting in Salt Lake City to share feedback on the plan’s latest draft with representatives from federal, state, and local agencies to include the Corps, FEMA, Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Utah Department of Emergency Management, the Shambip Conservation District, Tooele County, and others. In addition, planners Merritt and Patricia Fontanet held a flood awareness event the following day on Skull Valley Reservation to gather information about historical flooding in the area and listen to Goshute Tribe members’ concerns for inclusion in the plan’s next draft.

Simply put, a flood management plan can serve as a strategy for the Goshute Tribe to make risk-informed decisions for flood-risk management on Skull Valley Reservation. By equipping the tribe with a plan that accounts for natural floodplain activity, members can significantly reduce their risk to life and property on the reservation. But an effective plan will require ongoing interagency teamwork and management of both floodplains and floodwaters in the valley.

With a mission to conserve natural resources, interagency partner Shambip Conservation District Supervisor Alisa Meyer echoed the importance of teamwork to build a flood management plan that serves Skull Valley’s needs today and tomorrow.

"The Shambip Conservation District is excited to work with the Goshute Tribe on current and future efforts for the Skull Valley flood management plan,” Meyer said.

Skull Valley Band of Goshute Tribe Chairwoman Candace Bear described her vision for the plan: “My vision for the flood management plan and the Skull Valley Reservation is to promote the safety and well-being of the people, as well as to educate them on the natural happenings that are taking place around them.”

“I also hope for the future councils to have this information at hand so that they can make sound and timely decisions for the community in case of an emergency,” Bear added.

As this is the first time the Sacramento District partnered with the Goshute Tribe on a flood-risk management project, the long-term hope is for the completed plan to not just serve the Goshute Tribe, but to also become an example for other tribes to learn about available flood-risk management resources.

The team expects to complete the Skull Valley flood management plan by late 2017.

Bureau of Indian Affairs Corps of Engineers FEMA flood risk management floodplain management plan Goshute Tribe sacramento district Shambip Conservation District silver jackets Skull Valley State of Utah Tooele County U.S. Army Utah Division of Emergency Management