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Utah County Public Works removes rainstorm debris in Spanish Fork Canyon

By Kelcie Hartley - | Aug 15, 2022
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Debris travels through the river near Mill Fork, about 1 mile from mile marker 197 on the south side of U.S. Highway 6, in Spanish Fork Canyon on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022.
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The Utah County Public Works Department removed debris surrounding the Thistle Gun Range after rain storms on Friday, Aug. 12, 2022.

The Utah County Public Works Department cleared hundreds of dump truck loads of debris in four days from Dairy Fork and Thistle Catch Basin in Spanish Fork Canyon.

Both areas were heavily hit during last week’s three-day rainstorm, causing extreme debris slides into the river. UCPW Director Richard Neilson said his crew of 11 people have been working to clear the debris since last Thursday and should be finished on Tuesday.

“What we had was a series of rainstorms that hit last week,” Neilson said. “They were Thursday, Friday and Saturday. For Dairy Fork, debris came mainly on the burn scars from the Coal Hollow fire from 2018. It just brought a lot of debris down the river channel and plugged it up, so our guys are trying to unplug it and keep the water flowing.”

Both locations are in Spanish Fork Canyon. Thistle Catch Basin is further downstream from Dairy Fork, but both areas were affected by the same three-day storm event.

“Dairy Fork is plugging up at a bridge where Dairy Fork Road crosses the Soldier Creek,” Neilson said. “At Thistle, there’s a debris basin that catches this kind of debris. It was bad. There was a lot of materials that came down like big logs and other debris that came down the channel. Between what we have hauled off at Dairy Fork and the Thistle Catch Basin, I’d estimate somewhere close to 300 dump truck loads. We are cleaning up both locations to keep the water flowing in Soldier Creek, which turns into the Spanish Fork River when it gets more downstream.”

Neilson added that this is not a common occurrence, but it happens from time to time.

“This is a rarer event,” he said. “Especially if we get these summer thunderstorms that come in and dump a lot of rain in a hurry. That’s what has caused this, but it does happen occasionally.”

Sgt. Spencer Cannon, public information officer for the Utah County Sheriff’s Office, posted a video on the UCSO Twitter page of the UCPW crew cleaning up the debris. Cannon told the Daily Herald that there was very little threat to the homes within the two areas, and Dairy Fork Road and Lake Fork Road are currently closed.

Neilson warned county residents to be careful when in the mountains while it’s raining.

“If it looks like it’s raining above you, stay out of the lower parts of the canyons,” he said.

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