‘We can’t forget about Enoch’: Gov. Cox tours area still recovering from flooding

ENOCH — Gov. Spencer Cox spent a few hours in Enoch on Monday, visiting with local officials regarding the devastating flooding that recently damaged approximately 300 homes within Enoch City alone, in addition to causing flood damage in Cedar City, Kanarraville, Enterprise and several other areas throughout Southern Utah.

L-R: Enoch Mayor Geoffrey Chesnut, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox and other officials visit site near Old Highway 91 frontage road that experienced recent flooding, Enoch, Utah, Aug. 9, 2021 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Monday marked the eighth day since the latest and most powerful of a series of afternoon thunderstorms that hit the Enoch area several times over a two-week period.

Following a 45-minute midday meeting at the Enoch City offices, Cox and Enoch Mayor Geoffrey Chesnut spoke to members of the media along the Old Highway 91 frontage road adjacent to Interstate 15. 

“We’re here with the mayor and their team, just surveying the damage and what’s taking place out here,” Cox said, adding that the data collected on the storms is “going to be really important as we look to the future and how we can prevent these types of floods from happening.”

Chesnut noted that Enoch last experienced major flooding back in 2012, before his tenure as mayor.

“At that point, the city took efforts to try and mitigate damage and harm and put in a $1 million storm drain system,” he said, noting that approximately 100 homes had been flooded by the 2012 storm.

This year, the sheer amount of rain that came down at one time on Aug. 1 caused the city’s pipes and drainage systems to overfill beyond capacity.

“That system was overwhelmed by this storm,” he said. “We ended up with three times the amount (of damaged homes) after doing a million dollars of mitigation.”

L-R: Enoch Mayor Geoffrey Chesnut, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox and other officials visit site near Old Highway 91 frontage road that experienced recent flooding, Enoch, Utah, Aug. 9, 2021 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Chesnut described the magnitude of the latest storm as “off the charts.”

“At some points during the storm, there were isolated areas of Enoch that were receiving five to six inches in an hour,” he said.

Cox noted that it’s almost impossible to adequately prepare for such an extreme weather event.

“The mitigation work that was done actually worked for these other four or five enormous storms,” Cox said. “And those were big, big storms. But once in a while the conditions just hit uniquely, and to put this into perspective, in some places, (getting) about half their annual rainfall in 40 minutes is impossible to plan for.”

Chesnut said the city has been working with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to create some detention basins on the east side of Interstate 15, uphill from the city. However, he added, the proposed project hasn’t been moving along very rapidly.

“Working with the federal government is a slow process,” he said. “We’re in the environmental assessment phase right now. And they have just informed us that they’re working on the lease language for us to be able to build those projects. But then once that all happens, then there’s talking about funding, and right now, current estimates put it at nearly five times our annual budget.”

Nevertheless, Chestnut said he’s optimistic that the city will be able to secure additional grants and money, including state and federal funding, to help make it possible for the project to happen.

Cox said he’s working on a statewide disaster declaration that will collectively cover the entire series of midsummer thunderstorms and the flooding that they caused. 

“We have 30 days to do that,” he said. “The purpose of that is to get federal funding for some of these infrastructure needs that haven’t been met.”

The governor also commended the many people that have pitched in to help, noting that 40,000 volunteer hours have already been logged.

Local residents wade through floodwaters near Midvalley Road, Enoch, Utah, Aug. 1, 2021 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

“We feel a tremendous sense of empathy,” Cox said of those affected by the floods, “but people are stepping up to help, and that’s what’s been amazing. There’s a role for government to play, but we need the private sector and the faith-based sector in the nonprofit sector to step up, and they have. People are donating. They’re donating labor. They’re donating materials. Many of them are doing work at cost, to help get people back to normal. And every day, they get closer to normal.”

“We need people not to forget about them, though,” he added. “That’s what happens when we move on to the next disaster, the next big thing, we forget about the people that have been left behind, and we can’t forget about Enoch.”

Chesnut agreed, encouraging private community groups, organizations, companies and individuals to continue in their generous relief efforts. 

“If you have resources to contribute, the more that comes in, the better,” he said. “But the sooner that the media forgets or the community at large moves on to the next story, the longer it will be for the people in my little town.”

Accompanying Cox during his Enoch visit were Utah Department of Public Safety Commissioner Jess Anderson and other state and local emergency management officials.

The American Red Cross shelter set up in Enoch at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints chapel located at 451 E. Midvalley Road is expected to remain operational until Wednesday. For more information on flood damage or to report volunteer hours, visit the city’s website.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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