Army Corps releases inspection rating for Salt Lake County levee systems

Published Nov. 1, 2013

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Federally-required inspections by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District have shown a need for Salt Lake County, Utah, to address important maintenance issues of the levee systems along the 12-mile Surplus Canal. The canal, which was upgraded by the Corps in 1960, drains Jordan River water into the Great Salt Lake.

The Sacramento District conducted periodic inspections of the left and right bank Surplus Canal levee systems during May 2012. It resulted in a maintenance rating of “unacceptable.” The most serious deficiencies indentified throughout the systems were encroachments and levee depressions. Unacceptable vegetation was also noted during inspections but did not result in an overall unacceptable inspection rating.

Salt Lake County Department of Public Works officials—who maintain the levee systems—attended the inspections and received a draft report of the findings for review and comment in September 2012. The final report was completed in September 2013.

“Levee inspections are all about making sure that a levee can reliably do what we expect it to,” said Ryan Larson, Sacramento District acting levee safety program manager. “Our findings help the agencies that own and maintain these levees prioritize levee fixes—and help the public understand their flood risk and make informed decisions about protecting their property.”

Under federal rules, systems rated unacceptable are ineligible for federal aid in repairing any flood or storm damage to the levees until the deficiencies are corrected. Inspection results are provided to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but do not necessarily affect determinations of eligibility for the National Flood Insurance Program. The Corps will continue to provide flood fighting assistance for the levee systems, regardless of their status.

County Public Works Director Russ Wall notes that the county has a long and productive working relationship with the Army Corps of Engineers regarding the Surplus Canal and other projects.

“We take very seriously our responsibility to maintain and properly operate flood control facilities that provide protection to Salt Lake County property owners,” said Wall. “In fact, county crews have already begun rectifying many of the identified deficiencies—completing work on 55 sites to date.”

Wall says that in response to the latest inspection report, the county has begun an aggressive program to correct deficiencies and come into compliance. As part of this effort, the county has hired an engineering consultant to evaluate the structural and hydraulic performance of the system. Additionally, the county has been involved in a thorough investigation of the actual right-of-way of the canal to better identify where encroachments exist. 

Funding requests are included in the county’s 2014 budget to continue the repairs. In addition, Salt Lake County will be applying for a system-wide improvement framework agreement with the Corps, which would allow the levees to remain eligible for federal aid in repairing flood or storm damage while the deficiencies are being corrected.

Flood Control Director Scott Baird said that property owners who live next to the Surplus Canal or other flood control facilities should be aware that a flood control permit is required from Salt Lake County prior to doing any work that encroaches on any channel or embankment that is part of the system. Failure to obtain the proper permits may result in civil or criminal penalties and could possibly result in structural damage that could affect lives and property.

The Sacramento District also rated maintenance of the levee surrounding the South Davis Sewer District North Plan in West Bountiful, Utah, as unacceptable after a routine inspection found encroachment problems in August 2012. The North Plant levee is a dry levee system that guards the sewage treatment plant against potential expansion of the Great Salt Lake. Levee managers report they would have enough advance warning of that threat that they can and would make necessary repairs before water touched the levee.

Chris Gray

Release no. 13-084