Will Jordanelle Dam Fail
as a Tsunami of Snowmelt
Floods out of the Uinta Mountains?
Jordanelle is among ~240 Utah dams classified as “High Hazard.” “High Hazard” is typically defined as a dam whose failure will cause loss of human life and significant property destruction.
Never say Never about Utah Dams
Utah’s “High Hazard” Laub Dam was deemed safe
5 months before rupture in 2012.
Here are examples of
Utah dam failures:
- Laub Detention Dam in Washington County failed on September 11, 2012, following a severe storm with heavy rainfall. Numerous homes, businesses, and roads were damaged, but fortunately, no lives were lost. A Presidential Disaster Declaration was eventually declared on November 3, 2012.
- Little Deer Creek Dam in Wasatch County failed on June 4, 1963, due to a landslide that breached the dam. One person was killed and several homes were damaged by the flood.
- Mammoth Dam in Juab County failed on June 5, 1917, due to overtopping and erosion. Six people were killed and the town of Mammoth was destroyed by the flood.
- Thistle Dam in Utah County failed on April 14, 1983, due to a landslide that blocked the Spanish Fork River and created a natural dam. The dam eventually overtopped and eroded, causing flooding and damage to nearby towns and highways.
Dams Can Fail in Hours
Minutes or Seconds
- The Mill River Dam above Williamsburg, Massachusetts failed in 1874, killing 138 people. The dam was overtopped by a flood and breached within an hour.
- The Banqiao Dam in China failed in 1975, killing over 170,000 people. The dam was overtopped by a typhoon and breached within 5 hours.
- The Teton Dam in Idaho failed in 1976, killing 11 people. The dam had a piping failure that breached within 3 hours.
- The St. Francis Dam in California failed in 1928, killing 431 people. The dam had a foundation defect that caused a catastrophic collapse within minutes.
- The Vajont Dam in Italy failed in 1963, killing 2,500 people. The dam was overwhelmed by a massive landslide that triggered a giant wave over the dam within seconds.
- The Lower San Fernando Dam in California failed in 1971, causing no fatalities but significant damage. The dam had a piping failure that caused a partial breach within 2 hours.
Sordid Naissance & History
Spawned in conflict and controversy, this “High Hazard” Dam still aggravates the minds of many old-timers who can’t forget the era and aura of fraud and potential disaster that envelops it. Here are two vignettes that illustrate our point, taken from a History of Wasatch County:
The (Wasatch) Wave explained, “Since the Wasatch Valley is primarily known and famed as a summer resort recreational center, the addition of a ski resort would greatly enhance the possibilities of growth.” The timing was not right for the resort in the mid-1970s, however, and plans were dropped. In the meantime, a developer sold property interests to investors in Holland, telling them the resort was completed. The developer was later convicted in Los Angeles of fraud. (These properties were in and around Jordanelle.)
Speaking specifically of the Jordanelle Dam, “The citizens had an even greater concern. What would happen if the dam did not hold and the stored water was dumped on Midway and Heber City? Just before construction began, the Teton Dam, a large federally constructed project in eastern Idaho, broke, flooding much of the downstream area. Could the same thing happen in Utah? Mining interests were especially concerned. During hearings in 1979, Clark L. Wilson from the United Park City Mines Company reported that the dam was on a fault line. Initially, the county commissioners gave cautious support to the Jordanelle project, but when other studies showed the fault line through the proposed dam site, county officials and citizens expressed more concern. One geologist, Leon Hansen, declared the dam site was unsafe and said that if it broke “a minimum of 50,000 lives would be lost.” Four geologists from BYU questioned the safety of the dam because of the geological conditions in the area. The Bureau of Reclamation geologists agreed there was a fault line in the area but argued “lay observers … and even experienced geologists are not qualified to comment on whether or not engineering can compensate for site problems.”
The existence of the active fault is demonstrated in the following video. Restart the video below and enlarge it.
The Bald Mountain fault is a class “A” fault. In geology, seismic faults are classified into different categories based on their seismic hazard potential. One of the classifications is the “Class A” fault, which typically applies to faults that are capable of producing a magnitude 7 or greater earthquake. These are considered the most hazardous faults and can result in significant damage and loss of life.
Based on web search results, water-saturated soils can trigger a phenomenon (Think about unprecedented snow melt this year.) called soil liquefaction, which causes the ground to behave like a viscous liquid during earthquakes. This can result in damage to buildings, roads, bridges, and other structures (damns) that are on top of or in the soil. Soil liquefaction occurs when granular soils are subjected to seismic “S” waves (secondary waves), which cause ground vibrations during earthquakes. The soil grains lose contact with each other and are suspended in the water-filled pore spaces, which increases the water pressure and reduces the soil’s resistance to shear stress. Soil liquefaction is a leading cause of earthquake damage worldwide.
The following data about the Jordanelle Dam can be verified HERE.
Owner: Bureau of Reclamation (BOR)
Hazard potential classification: “High Hazard”
Date of last Emergency Action Plan Revision: 06/17/2020
Inspections required: Annually
Date of last inspection: 07/09/2020
From an extensive, official report found HERE, we learn that: “Study Results indicate that flooding resulting from the sunny day failures of either Jordanelle or Deer Creek Dams will inundate the residential areas along the Provo Canyon corridor and in Orem and Provo, which could result in the loss of life. In addition, parts of Springville located within the floodplain south of Provo, Utah as well as major highways and road crossings would be heavily impacted by the floodwaters.”
This is what the Deseret News reported in 1988 and what the BOR could be concealing today by not releasing, more freely, its Emergency Action Plan. The “bottom line” is that the BOR doesn’t want us to see the detailed death and destruction projections. Look for more shocking “eye-openers” near the end of the following Deseret News report.
From our own information, discussing this matter with experts, and reviewing the literature for some decades now, flooding could make a right-hand turn at Utah Lake and rumble North swamping the Jordan River to spill out onto the Salt Lake Valley.
Here we digress to the first person. Wanting to know more, I began to call and call and email agencies. I left messages and sent emails and am getting responses from some.
Jeremy Hales, the E.M. Director for Wasatch County, wherein Jordanelle is sited returned my call and answered my email request promptly, cordially, and respectfully. I was trying to track down an Emergency Action Plan (EAP) for Jordanelle.
Here is the contact information for Jeremy:
1361 South Highway 40
Heber City, Utah 84032
Phone: (435) 657-3544
Mr. Hales and I had the conversation that follows:
Here’s one problem: Jordanelle is owned by the federal Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), but operated by the State of Utah. “Operated” does not mean that Utah calls all of the shots. I don’t have enough information to comment on more than that … other than to say I’m NOT getting an Emergency Action Plan out of anyone other than the BOR — and likely not them either.
Another problem: The shortest time to a failure found (see above) was “within minutes” and “within seconds.” I had a conversation with two Jordanelle Dam officials. They assured me that they had eyes on the Dam and inspected it twice daily. However (isn’t there always a “however”?) a catastrophic failure within minutes or seconds at Midnight is no comfort to the dads, moms, and their babies downstream in Heber Valley, Utah Valley, and at the bottom of the Bureau of Reclamation’s Emergency Action Plan, contact call list. How long will it take to reach out to individuals on that list?
If you, your loved ones, friends, and neighbors know only mere moments at midnight before Jordanelle begins to fail … Sleepy Joe Biden and Lil’ Coxy’s apparent plan is for you to bend over, put your heads between your knees, and kiss your asses goodbye!
Another problem: Why is the Jordanelle still a “High Hazard” dam? Where is it on a list of political priorities to be fixed? If it fails, the flood and debris would drown down and across a broad swath of Utah Valley and perhaps also rumble on into the Salt Lake Valley. A whole lot a’ folks would be swimming, treading water, or drowning.
Yes, the BOR owns Jordanelle. But who is ultimately responsible for bringing it back to code? If only the BOR, then they’ve let it lapse and Lil’ Coxy’s regime should have expressed strident outrage about it … especially this year. We’d overlook his usual wining and sniveling if only it were focused on addressing the damn dam problem.
Above is an undoctored photo taken on the Utah House
floor that exemplifies Utah’s political “leadership”.
Lack of Political Leadership, Due Diligence, and Care
The Federal, “High Hazard” Jordanelle and the ~240 Utah State “High Hazard” Dams are glaringly stark evidences of the decades of willful and wanton disregard our politicians have for the safety of our People. In this instance, the “Buck Stops” with the President of the United States and Utah’s Governor Cox.
Were we to waste time detailing the disastrous Biden administration, the focus of this dam report would be lost.
Our most immediate problems reside with the Little Prince, Spencer Cox. Governor Cox … or Lil’ Coxy as we call him … is all in, invested, and wound up tight, preening, posturing and pontificating with his head up hisand all into the I-15 Corridor, Silicon Slopes, the Prison Move, and … “Smart” Cities.
Speaking of Smart Cities, Lil’ Coxy lectures about them with one of his many faces and then denies their very existence. Amazing proof of that can be found by clicking on HERE.
Lil’ Coxy is an effeminate liar who cannot be trusted to serve anyone but Utah’s Goodfellas, his cronies, and himself. We thank Jason Preston and Enoch Moore of Defending Utah for confronting Lil’ Coxy and catching him in his lies. Lil’ Coxy is pimping for prestige and power, and incapable of minding the Utah store.
We have observed Lil’ Coxy’s perverted penchant for matters completely out of conservative sync and ideology. We cite our own writings as examples:
- Cox & George Soros Insult Utah’s Real Girls;
- Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox Venerated Abortion & Child Predation Promoter SCOTUS Ruth Bader Ginsburg;
- Quarantine Queens & Hypocrites Ignore Real Pandemics;
- Biden, Ukraine, Russia, and Cox: Repetition “ad nausea”;
- Cox was one of 7 Governors appointed by Biden to serve on a board to strengthen National Security and he collaborated with Biden over efforts to get our citizens vaccinated for COVID.
I, Wayne Wickizer, believe Lil’ Coxy is a Liberal mole pre-positioned to format all of Utah into the Marxist model of a mindless, woke, Deep-State of madness.
Lil’ Coxy is a Liar’s Liar and a RINO’s RINO. His judge, jury, and legacy could ultimately revolve around and depend on ~240 “High Hazard” dams, and the Almighty’s Mother Nature.
With this story, we serve notice on Lil’ Coxy and Utah’s politicians: Should they fail to act immediately, there could be dire, legal, cultural, political, and social consequences were Jordanelle, or any one of Utah’s ~240 troubled dams, to fail and take innocent lives.
Much of Utah’s dam problems are embodied in the ole’ saying, “Out of sight, out of mind.” It’s easy, especially for corrupt politicians, to ignore potential catastrophes. If we all lived … even still … in the floodplain beneath the Teton Dam, we’d know that “an ounce of prevention (and preparation) is worth a pound of cure.”
Jordanelle is still a “High Hazard” Dam because it would cost money to address. Historically, the cost of each dam safety project has averaged about $2-3 million. (Cost varies depending on the size of the dam and the extent of the deficiencies.) At the current level of funding, the state can fund, on average, only one or two dam safety projects each year. With each passing year, inflation chips away at the dollar’s buying power, and the ability to complete projects diminishes.
In order for the remaining High Hazard dams to be brought up to minimum safety standards, an estimated $250 million is needed. At the current funding rate, this would take around 66 years! If funding were increased by $6.2 million to a total of $10 million per year, it would still take around 25 years!
A report by the Utah Division of Water Resources (UDWR) from 2013 estimated the potential economic damages from the failure of the Jordanelle Dam alone at $3.29 billion. ~$250MM is a comparatively small price to pay.
Over the decades the Wasatch Front Regional Council (WFRC), a demonstrable, do nothing “Peter,” may have spent that ~$250MM just trying to plan for transport up and down the Cottonwood Canyons and they haven’t accomplished shit yet. Let’s fire the worthless Council and use the money they’ve squandered on planning … to actually fix our dams. From their website:
“The Wasatch Front Regional Council (WFRC) has been in existence for several decades. The WFRC was first created in 1969 as the Salt Lake City and County Planning Commission, and then in 1977, the Salt Lake County Metropolitan Planning Organization was established, which eventually became the WFRC. This indicates that the organization has been in existence for over 50 years.
“For example, the WFRC is responsible for developing transportation plans every 4 years, and it released its transportation plan in January 2023, which includes a financial plan to demonstrate the costs of roadway and transit facilities over the life of the plan. Furthermore, according to one of the search results, the transportation plan lists the cost of a gondola project in Little Cottonwood Canyon as just over $1 billion phased. [Gondolas won’t save thousands downstream of any dam breach from drowning.]
“However, the WFRC is also involved in other types of plans, such as the Wasatch Choice 2050 Vision plan 4, which includes a financial plan to demonstrate the costs of various strategies to enhance mobility, economic development, and quality of life. In addition, the WFRC has a Local Planning Resource Program Agreement that involves contracting with consultants to assist with planning efforts. [In ~50 years, they still haven’t achieved a better way to go skiing other than up the narrow, congested canyons in our own cars.]
Now that we’ve pirated some of the WFRC’s planning “grift,” it would help to have competent, ethical leadership. We’re here to remind you that Utah’s Gov. Lil’ Coxy is all in for the WFRC, Silicon Slopes, The I-15 Corridor, the Prison move, “Smart Cities,” passion to preserve the China connection, and anything and everything that will line the pockets of Utah’s Goodfellas and his corrupt cronies. Fat chance getting his help.
Lest we forget, there’s one more potential source of funding from Coxy’s personal, Corona Relief Funds ($934,765,677.00), and the potential funding that is controlled specifically by Lil’ Coxy and his office. It’s “Lil’ Coxy’s Cash Cow”.
For example, from just some of our analysis and investigation, if Coxy can afford to grant/grift $1MM to the perverted purveyor of porn films, Sundance Institute, and many $$$ to his campaign finance cronies, he could surely come up with the $250MM for Utah’s “High Hazard” dams.
Is Lil Coxy…
We’ll wrap this story up and get it out post haste. Hopefully, what we’ve written is accurate and impactful. There will be more soon.
Note that Utah Division of Water Resources officials returned my calls and provided useful information as we spoke. They appear to be doing the best they can to make lemonade out of the lemons corrupt officials like Lil Coxy have given them. These stewards appear to be decent, vigilant, and competent, flying by the seat of their pants, and on a wing and a prayer hoping no lives will be lost.
If we’ve mingled and mixed in some narrative taken from official sources with comments of our own, we hope you’ll understand.
Please send any corrections asap to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yesterday, 05.07.23, I took a personal look at Jordanelle and videoed the event (see below). In the 1990s, renowned Utah geologist Leon Hansen and I would travel Hwy 40 “abeam” of the Jordanelle Reservoir. He would point out where the Bald Mountain Fault intersected Hwy 40 and the “hump” in the road that proved it.
After Leon’s passing and spanning nearly several decades, I would announce this “hump” to all those traveling with me as we bumped over it … announce it as the “Hansen Hump.” Yesterday, I could not find it.
Also, I visited briefly with a resident who lives within about a “mile or so” downstream from the bottom of the dam. His idyllic little farm is at an elevation above the Provo River but, in my opinion, still, much at risk. I purposefully avoided taking the Chicken Little “The sky is falling” or “The dam is breaking” approach. We talked cordially about potential dam failure, its status as a “High Hazard” dam, and Leon Hansen’s warnings. He seemingly wasn’t much concerned. He asked not to be identified but gave me permission to report these impressions. Knowing what I KNOW, I wouldn’t be quite so cavalier about living below the dam. Hopefully, our report will give this fine man some “food for thought.”
At the “ripe” ole’ age of 86, I don’t get out or drive much anymore, but on Sunday I trekked out in my little Ford F-150 … that I love dearly … from Uintah (Ogden) to Jordanelle. Please enjoy the trip report that follows:
Regardless of the denial, it is always encouraging to receive a quick response from the government. Note the one that follows. I had requested the Jordanelle Emergency Action Plan.
Amanda McClellan Mandy@cuwcd.gov Good morning,
In response to your request for the Jordanelle Emergency Action Plan, under Utah Code 63G-2-106, government security plans for the protection of persons, or property including plans for emergency disaster response and recovery are not subject to GRAMA. Therefore, your request is denied.
In accordance with 63G-2-205, should you decide to appeal our response to your request, you can do so within 30 days of this notice of denial to:
1426 E. 750 N. Suite 400
Orem, UT 84097
I am also attaching a Public Request for Records form and fee schedule. If you have any further requests, please use the form to submit them.
Mandy McClellan CIGO, CRM, IGP
CENTRAL UTAH WATER CONSERVANCY DISTRICT
(801) 226-7146 office | email@example.com
1426 E. 750 N. Suite 400 | Orem, UT 84097
The Top 5 Biggest Dam Failures in the World
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Wayne L. Wickizer
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