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Logan City Council updates rules for building within city floodplains

The Blacksmith Fork River flows while trees sit beyond the riverbank.

According to local flood maps, over 85% of the future Willow Lakes subdivision in southwest Logan is located within the Logan River’s 100-year flood zone. When the development was proposed, it received an outpouring of public comments concerned about impacts to sensitive wetlands that help soak up flood waters.

In response, the Logan City Council passed a series of changes to local development codes, to better define local wetlands and floodplains. The amendments also define what can be built in them in the future. Mike DeSimone, the Logan Community Development Director, introduced the amendments at the council meeting on Feb. 21.

"Really what we tried to do is update the ordinance, so that it gets at requiring some base level data, so we can all make a better decision … restricts critical facilities in all special flood hazard areas, so your school, hospitals, police, fire stations, things like that," DeSimone said.

The city council was exploring the proposed changes well before this winter’s record breaking snowfall, but concerns about flooding impacts on future development are well-timed as communities across the Wasatch Front prepare for spring runoff floods.

DeSimone clarified that the amendments don’t prevent development within floodplains, despite the risks associated with it.

"Really, the goal behind all this is not necessarily to prohibit development, it’s to make sure that we as a taxpayer aren’t paying for replacing that house in a floodplain," he said. "So if you're going to build it to begin with, do it smart."

As development projects spring up to house Logan’s growing population, the amendments have seen local support, including from Logan resident Gail Yost, who spoke in favor of the changes at the last city council meeting.

"I think this is a very good idea to make sure that we have some flood damage prevention," Yost said. "That at least we're making an effort to slow down the times that we have flooding."

Aimee Van Tatenhove is a science reporter at UPR. She spends most of her time interviewing people doing interesting research in Utah and writing stories about wildlife, new technologies and local happenings. She is also a PhD student at Utah State University, studying white pelicans in the Great Salt Lake, so she thinks about birds a lot! She also loves fishing, skiing, baking, and gardening when she has a little free time.
Reporter Jacob Scholl covers northern Utah as part of a newly-created partnership between The Salt Lake Tribune and Utah Public Radio. Scholl writes for The Tribune and appears on-air for UPR.