Utah County Flooding, UDOT and Solution Recommendations for Subdivisions

by Robert John Stevens, March 20, 2017

This is an exceptional wet year, probably the wettest since the 1983 Utah floods, and the hard-packed dirt from laser levelling caused the water to glide over it rather than sink in.

Here is a classic example of a compounded problem resulting from government intervention. Please read it to understand the problem and proposed solutions:

For decades my 45 acres along 1/2 mile of SR-147 in Benjamin, Utah were irrigated from east to west so the water flowed downhill along the natural slope of the land.

At some point, somebody complained to Utah County that their neighbor’s water came onto their property so a regulation was created that requires each new subdivision parcel to have its own watering system.

So to comply, I had contractors build almost 1/2 mile of east-to-west cement irrigation ditch and also laser levelled parcels to slope from south to north towards SR-147.

Naturally, you’d think the water should have drained into the UDOT ditch along SR-147 from 4400 to 4700 West but the Orem UDOT branch won’t permit it and even denies it is a ditch, even though they had us build culverts where driveways crossed it.

Glen Tanner at Utah County Public Works believes once the parcels are tilled and planted, the roots will enable water to drain down.

Future parcel owners may install 2″ or 4″ pipes to pump out excess water.

What lessons can we learn?

  1. Never create regulations based upon minority complaints. In software engineering, we have an 80/20 rule: If 20% or fewer people want something, don’t build it, especially if there are unforeseen consequences and it makes things more difficult for the majority.

  2. Undue burdensome regulations.

  3. Recommend developers install a drainage pipe encased in gravel under the low end of adjacent parcels, with the grade sloping towards it, and the cement irrigation ditch on the opposite end so the water flows from high to low and the extra water is drained off the property.

  4. Permit UDOT ditches for common-sense water discharge.

  5. Schedule a charrette meeting with stakeholders including representatives from drainage districts and local excavators.

  6. We need master planning for county roads, drainage, sewer and utilities. Isn’t that one of the main reasons we form governments?

Make Water Rights Private and Eliminate the Department of Water Rights

by Robert John Stevens, December 1, 2016

I was asked to fill out an online feedback form for the Utah Department of Water Rights. Here’s what I wrote:

I purchased water rights and have since been worried that I can’t get my subdivisions approved fast enough because of all the government bureaucracy, my water rights will expire before beneficial use can be shown and you’ll demand I cement my wells. Each of you working there should experience just how awful this is. Water rights should be private property and treated as such.

Secondly, you don’t offer the same service one would expect from private industry that has to make a profit. For example, one of your employees mistakingly assigned one of my water rights across the street on a neighbor’s property. A private business would quickly fix their mistake and apologize. Your government entity requires $150 and a 5-6 month wait and no apology is given and neither are my water right expiration dates extended.

The free market can and should take over your agency.