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Provo River flooding not anticipated, but city monitoring high water flows

By Curtis Booker - | Apr 25, 2024

Curtis Booker, Daily Herald

The Provo River can be seen running at a high level near the Geneva Road bridge trailhead Sunday, April 21, 2024.

Rising temperatures also means a rise in water levels in Utah’s reservoirs, rivers and streams. Spring runoff already is having an impact on portions of the Provo River, causing flows to run high and fast.

Within the past week, the river is averaging a streamflow of 680 cubic feet per second. That’s higher than normal, according to Jacob O’Bryant, floodplain manager for Provo City, but he’s not ruling out higher stream flows as the runoff season continues.

“The river can hold closer to 1,800 or 2,000 cubic feet per second. So it’s still higher than normal, and that’s because of spring runoff time. But it can get to be quite a bit greater flow rate; it probably will in the next few weeks,” O’Bryant said.

An area along the Provo River Trail experiencing high water is under the Geneva Road bridge. Last week, out of abundance of caution, the city’s parks department closed the section of the trail because water has seeped onto the concrete, but the spillover isn’t necessarily related to flooding, city officials say.

Doug Robins, Provo’s parks and recreation director, explained that during spring runoff when high water accumulates, low-lying bridge tunnels under crossings may be impacted because the pumps can’t keep up with fast-moving water. He further explained that the situation isn’t uncommon and crews are monitoring bridge crossings along the river.

While river levels are high, the risk is not as dire compared to last spring, following a record-breaking snow year.

Last year, O’Bryant said, the snow water equivalent on nearby mountains that provides water into the river was around 40 inches. This year was just over 20 inches, he added, 14 of which already has melted off.

The Provo River is fed by nearby tributaries, including Jordanelle and Deer Creek reservoirs. O’Bryant says officials expect it to run high as the reservoirs release flows into the river, but he doesn’t foresee it running as high as last year.

But caution is still advised. “Anytime we have the river full, we have the concern of keeping an eye on the levees, keeping people away when we get really high flow rates, especially small children,” O’Bryant said.

The Provo River is still under 75% of flooding stage, according to the KSL River flow tracker. Further north, the American Fork River is running slightly higher at around 80% of flood stage.

Though flooding isn’t anticipated, crews took precautionary measures by cleaning debris out of the river following last spring.

“We’re still keeping an eye on it, but a lot was done last year that helps us out to be ready this year,” O’Bryant told the Daily Herald.

Gordon Haight, director of public works for Provo, agrees. In the event conditions change, he says the city still has sandbags left from last year, and the city is constantly monitoring snowpack levels.

Crews will continue to monitor conditions, specifically if there is heavy rain from an intense storm.

“There’s never a zero (percent) chance for flooding. But we feel really good with the infrastructure the city’s put in and with the effort in watching everything that’s going on throughout the city,” Haight said.

In the meantime, officials encourage residents to exercise caution near riverbanks and bodies of water, keep pets on a leash and supervise small children closely.


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