Santa Clara seeks FEMA funding in face of slow moving landslide

Posted at 7:17 PM, Sep 19, 2014
and last updated 2014-09-19 21:17:11-04

SANTA CLARA, Utah - A slow moving landslide in southern Utah has been threatening homes for decades.

City engineers have tried various ways of mitigating the danger, and now they’re looking for help from the federal government.

In July, Santa Clara applied for a FEMA Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant to help fund a new plan to stop the Truman Drive Landslide. It’s been slow moving since the 1980s, but homeowners who live on the edge said it’s moved dramatically in the last 10 years.

“If we don’t do something, it's probably going to continue to deteriorate out there and we’ll see more damage,” said Santa Clara Mayor Rick Rosenberg.

The landslide is the result of a heavily saturated water table. In 1993, crews installed several large cement poles between 20 and 40 feet into the bedrock in an attempt to hold the hillside back. Today, those poles are almost completely knocked over.

"When we get a heavy precipitation like we’ve had the last few weeks, it makes us nervous,” Rosenberg said. “We’re cognoscente of that, and we’re just trying to do the best job we can.”

The city’s insurance company already bought two homes that sit directly in the path of the slide. The current plan would purchase at least one other, and install other tactics to try and stall the movement. It’s a small comfort to those who live in those threatened homes.

“It really does put you on edge, literally,” homeowner Judy Larsen said. “We’re happy that at least, perhaps either the NRCS or FEMS can help buy us out, and that’s a good thing.”

But it’s not a sure thing. The city should know within a few months if they qualify for the federal funds. Even if they don’t, Rosenberg said the city council is committed to finding the money to make the plan work.

“We’ve done some work as part of the city budget, trying to put in some additional drains, trying to drain some of that water off in the past,” Rosenberg said. “We’ll continue efforts to try and stabilize the slide.”