The Wisdom of Man is Foolishness.

What do I mean by that?

I grew up in the small southern Utah town of Santa Clara.

Around 300 people lived there, farming and fruit sales to travelers on Highway 91, the main route from Salt Lake City, Utah to Las Vegas, Nevada, very the main occupations of the school teachers, construction workers, etc.

We children were kept busy with school and work but found time to explore the hills and canyons, swim down by the river in the large irrigation ditches and visit Laub’s pond.

Laub’s pond was at the east of town beyond the houses at the east end of the red hill ( clay and shale covered with fine red sand and vegetation. the wash above it was usually dry but the pond had lots of water in it and ducks and other water fowl loved to visit it too.

Some of the town’s children swam there. Up the wash on the southwest side of the lava flow that came from Snow Canyon and terminated at the Santa Clara River. (Many call it a creek, but if seen in flood stage, you’ll believe it is a river.)

My father was the town plumber and the majority of our drinking water came from springs under the red cliffs on the east of the lava flow. He was always exploring new water sources and found one in the wash under the lava and above the clays below it. It was never developed. Cat tail and tamarisk bushes lined the wash. The tamarisk had been imported in earlier times to stabilize the water ways and grew where there was ground water.

The pond had been made in pioneer times to control the floods that would come down the wash. To the south of the dike the deep wash had been filled in with red sand from the red hill and the fields were then called the “red land.”

When sewer lines were installed in that ground going down 14 feet, the red sand went that deep and maybe even deeper, verifying that the old wash had been large..

Fast forward to the first of the 2000s. The environmental craze had hit and those wanting control of things determined that tamarisk bushes were invasive and used up water. Though no drinking or irrigation water came from where the tamarisks grew in the wash above Laub’s pond or other areas. These experts imported some kind of beetle to kill the plants and went along washes and streams and cut the intruder out.

By 2012 the tall grove like tamarisks in Laub’s wash had been killed and or cut out, the pond drained to stop mosquitos and to make ball parks etc in the place where the pond had been. The dike had been left to nature and gophers and other burrowing creatures had made the northside of the dike home.

Though the southwest part of Utah is normally a very dry, arid place, when rains and snows come, flooding occurs as evidenced by the deep washes and rugged rock formation erosion.

The wash leading to the dike of Laub’s pond drains a huge area from west of the lava flow, the entire Santa Clara Ivins bench.

On September 11, 2012, a heavy rain storm hit the area.

The Tamarisks were gone, so nothing held the wash’s banks in place or stopped the water runoff. The pond filled quickly and the gopher damaged dike gave way to the sudden large amount of water. The filled in wash had been covered with houses and business buildings and so the raging waters of the breached dike spread out over a large area and caused much damage.

The wisdom of man had been proven faulty again.

I was asked to relate what damage can result from gopher digging in a hillside and so I wrote the following letter.

Gopher Caused Flood

-News reports of that day
-Then a photo of some of the gopher diggings on top the broken dike that had been there all my life 1950 to 2012 and longer.
-Then a photo of the flood path and some of the damaged area.
All caused by the gophers not overflowing.

-A video link of a news story 10 years after the break:

10 years later: Santa Clara dam break prepared community for future floods


Santa Clara, Utah dike flood 9/11/12

Santa Clara, Utah dike flood 9/11/12


Santa Clara, Utah dike flood 9/11/12 – 3

Santa Clara, Utah dike flood 9/11/12 – 3


Dike breaks, damaging homes and businesses in Santa Clara – Deseret News
with photosDike break in Santa Clara, flooding damages businesses, home, call for volunteers – St George News (

Santa Clara Flooding Fight – Bing video
“rodent caused” the video says. this was the cause.graphic evidence of what gophers can do.

Gopher diggings north side of dike.

The dike afterwards.
Just below the dike.

Dike breaks, damaging homes and businesses in Santa Clara – Deseret News
with photos
Dike break in Santa Clara, flooding damages businesses, home, call for volunteers – St George News (

Santa Clara Flooding Fight – Bing video
“rodent caused” the video says. this was the cause.

graphic evidence of what gophers can do.

the following are some TV news reports of the day:

fox 13 flood coverage 9 11 12

Heavy rains led to flooding in southern Utah, especially the city of Santa Clara where city leaders have issued a disaster declaration after rainwater swelled and broke a dike, which destroyed residences and several business Tuesday afternoon.
Evacuations are in place for 30 homes in the Vineyard area due to flooding. St. George police say one home was surrounded by flood waters and others are threatened.
As of 5 p.m., homeowners were allowed to go back and assess the damage as much of the water has since receded.
PHOTOS: Santa Clara flooding
The broken dike is located along Tuacahn Wash, between Santa Clara baseball fields and directly west of Snow Canyon Middle School in St. George.
Santa Clara Boulevard / Sunset Boulevard is closed between Santa Clara Parkway and Tuweap Drive. Pioneer Parkway is shut down from Lava Cove Drive to Red Mountain.
The National Weather Service has issued another flash flood warning for Washington County that expired at 4:45 p.m. A flood watch remain in effect until 10 p.m.
A flash flood warning was issued for Wayne County and Capitol Reef National Park that expired at 4:15. Roads in and out of the park are closed.
The National Weather Service reports 3.25″ of rain has fallen Tuesday. That water is the cause of the flooding. The NWS also reports widespread flooding in Washinton County and says a flood warning will remain in effect until 10 p.m. Tuesday.
Zion National Park reports widespread flooding there. High water levels are reported along the Beaver Dam and the Santa Clara River.
Experts say drivers should not attempt to drive into areas where water is covering the road.
(Anyone with video of the flood can upload the footage to YouTube and email FOX 13 the link at
Schools affected by flooding (via
9/11/2012 – 3:45pm – END
Flood Update–At this time students that normally ride the bus are being transported home in the affected areas–although a few buses may be running late. Arrangements have been made with the parents of students that normally walk home to ensure they get home safely in those areas. Thank you to parents and community members for helping us work through this situation.
9/11/2012 – 2:38pm – UPDATE
Students at Arrowhead elementary will be dismissed at the regular time. Any students living in the flooded area will be held at the school until a parent comes to pickup or authorities deem it safe to transport by bus. Parents are welcome to pickup their students at the school at the regular time.
9/11/2012 – 2:18pm – UPDATE
Schools Announcement – Santa Clara Elementary, Snow Canyon High, Snow Canyon Middle will be dismissed at regular time today. Be aware busses may be running late and parents may pickup children at schools if they desire at the regular time.
9/11/2012 – 2:00pm – START
Students that live in the Santa Clara valley will be held at school until authorities have deemed it safe to transport students into the area of Santa Clara valley or Gunlock. Students that live on the Santa Clara Heights, Ivins, Dixie Downs areas will be dismissed and transported home at the regular time today – (As of 2:00pm – 9/11/2012)

KUTV on 9 11 12 Laub dike flood.
9/11/12 reporters Andy Stack and Ladd Egan.
Dozens Of Homes Damaged In Santa Clara After Dike Breaks
(KUTV) High water from heavy rains caused flooding in Southern Utah and evacuations in Santa Clara .
The Laub dike broke, which holds back a retention pond, causing water to wash the middle of the dike away.
“We had no idea that we’d ever have a problem with that,” Larry Larson says. Larson’s home was damaged in the flood.
It’s a dike that people in Santa Clara hardly even knew was there. “It’s always function well. We never knew there was an issue or problem with it,” Sheriff Cory Pulsipher of Washington County says.
On Tuesday, a police officer spotted water coming through the dike. He ran door to door telling people to evacuate.
Within moments, flood waters tore a huge gash through the middle of the dike. It sent a wave of muddy water right into the town.
Between 25 and 30 homes suffered major damages from the flooding.
“We have several homes where they essentially had a five or six foot tall wall of water go through their main floor,” Matt Ence, a Santa Clara City Council member says.
Businesses were damaged too. One gas station was directly in the water’s path.
“You just think ‘oh, it will flood just a little,’ and then it got higher and higher,” Liisa Frei, owner of Dutchman’s Gas Station says. She watched as the water punched open the doors on the back of the building.
“The chairs in the restaurant floated out,” Frei says.
Spencer Holland, manager at DixiLand Tires says it’s a miracle he got out before the wall of water hit his tire store.
“It picked up equipment that weighed way more than a person and threw it like it was nothing, so a person would have been taken apart,” Holland says.
The city is now looking into what caused the catastrophic failure of the dike, but the focus right now is on recovery.
“Our hearts go out to these folks. They are our friends and neighbors. It’s been a tough day,” Matt Ence says.
State Representative Larry Snow says there will be some help at the state level.
(Copyright 2012 Sinclair Broadcasting Group)

(It is now codified in Section 107 of the Copyright Act, which provides that fair use of a work “for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use, scholarship, or research)” is not an infringement of copyright.)

The KSL news info:
KSL report on flood 9/11/12
SANTA CLARA, Washington County — A breach in a retention basin caused a surge of water to flow into a Santa Clara neighborhood Tuesday, resulting in flood damage to at least 25 homes and a dozen businesses, forcing residents to evacuate.
The break
The dike, categorized as a high-risk dam once homes and businesses were built below it, was scheduled to be rebuilt, said Ron Whitehead, Washington County public works director. The basin originally was built to protect the nearby highway, but expansion gradually surrounded it with structures.
“It’s just been there for years,” Whitehead said. “We never had a problem with it. It never filled up as fast as it did like this. Today we had some big thunderstorms that put a lot of water over the drainage area and just filled it up fast, and it wouldn’t hold.”
A dike break near Snow Canyon Middle School caused flooding in southern Utah Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2011. (Photo: Lacie Tinker)
Whitehead, who witnessed the dike break Tuesday, said water began seeping through the top of the dam and as the earthen face eroded and pressure built up behind it. The breach sliced slowly downward to the rock base, widening as it went, he said.
Whitehead couldn’t estimate how much water spilled through the breach, but he said the flow turned a Santa Clara park into a pond.
“If it were to rain again like it did this morning and there’s big drainage that would fill it up like that, it would cause some more severe damage,” he said.
The damage
“There is tons of damage between my yard and my neighbor’s yard and the yard down from me,” said Ivins resident Andrew Hawk. “I mean, we’re going to have to completely rebuild our front yards. We both have bridges that we access our houses from. They’re completely ripped out.”
Hawk said the flow of water was “absolutely unreal.” He estimated a bed in front of his home collected 10 feet to 12 feet of water in about a half an hour Tuesday.
They wouldn’t let us on our street to drive, so my husband and I walked through our backyard. The water was running through like a river on four or five homes.
–Wendy Basso, Santa Clara resident
Skyler Ray faces similar damage to his home, something he feared as he heard and then saw the flood approaching.
“I saw the first wave of water just crushing by this street and realized, ‘Holy cow, I don’t have flood insurance,'” he said.
Ray managed to save important documents in his home and then proceeded to help clear a foot of water from his in-laws’ house.
As word of the breach spread, Wendy Basso and her husband headed for their home, which has seen previous flooding.
“We began to worry,” Basso said, “and as we headed home, we heard the mandatory evacuation. They wouldn’t let us on our street to drive, so my husband and I walked through our backyard. The water was running through like a river on four or five homes.”
The Bassos grabbed what possessions, photos and documents they could from the basement, just as the water began to pour in. They won’t know the extent of the damage until cleanup begins.
It was only a matter of time before the dike gave way, Basso said.
“It was an earthen dam, and sooner or later everyone said, ‘It’s going to have to go,’ and it went today,” she said.
Residents in Santa Clara work to clean up after flood waters broke the dike Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012. (Photo: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)
Rep. Dave Clark, R-Santa Clara, the former speaker of the Utah House, has lived near the earthen dike, not far from Snow Canyon Middle School, for 25 years. Clark said he can’t remember a time when it was so full, so fast.
“I’m just astonished. I’ve seen it full only a half-dozen times,” he said, adding that his home on high ground was spared.
But in the past week, including Tuesday morning before the break, Clark said he had seen the retention basin full twice. When full, Clark estimated the dike held an area of water that was about 30 feet deep and 100 feet wide at its widest part.
Clark said he recently noticed small signs of leaking, but nothing that would have raised alarm.
But by Tuesday afternoon, Clark said the city’s engineers had predicted it would collapse. The breach in the dike was 60 feet to 80 feet wide at the base, he said.
The weather
KSL meteorologist Kevin Eubank said the Santa Clara area experienced significant rainfall in a relatively short time Tuesday morning. Almost 1 inch of rain fell in St. George, while between 1½ inches and 2 inches of rain fell onto the nearby mountains that feed into the Santa Clara and other rivers.
Those red rocks are beautiful, but they don’t absorb much.
–Rep. Dave Clark, R-Santa Clara
“Those red rocks are beautiful, but they don’t absorb much,” Clark said. The torrents threatened an area that he called “probably the nicest neighborhood in Santa Clara.”
The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for parts of Washington and Wayne counties at 1:45 p.m. A flash food watch was in effect for much of southern Utah through 11 p.m.
County officials also closed several roads due to washed out portions and potential damages that could not be fully assessed until Wednesday.
Eubank said additional rainstorms are heading northeast from Las Vegas toward the St. George area and are expected to move up the I-15 corridor.
The Red Cross provided support Tuesday for a temporary evacuation center in the Santa Clara City Building, 2603 Santa Clara Drive.
Emergency officials said the flooding is being caused by a different problem from what was experienced in 2005. In that massive round of flooding, 34 homes were washed into the Santa Clara River or otherwise damaged after a wave of storms that caused an estimated $180 million in damage in the Green Valley area of St. George.
Contributing: Wendy Leonard and McKenzie Romero
Pat Reavy, Crime Reporter
Pat is a police and crime reporter. He interned at KSL Radio in 1989. He was hired by KSL Radio for a part-time position in 1991 and later a full-time position a couple of months later. Pat was hired by the Deseret News in 2000. Full Bio »
Alex Cabrero, Reporter
Alex Cabrero has been reporting for KSL TV-5 since 2004. During his time in Salt Lake City, he has covered several high-profile stories, including the St. George floods, the Crandall Canyon mine collapse, and the Trolley Square shootings.

Related Stories 9/12/12 KSL flood report 9 12 12
Dozens of structures damaged in Santa Clara flood
SANTA CLARA — If there’s any point of solace in the lost pictures and ruined Christmas decorations that resulted from Tuesday’s massive flooding disaster, one Santa Clara family may have found it.
A breach in a retention basin caused a surge of water to flow into a Santa Clara neighborhood Tuesday, resulting in flood damage to at least 25 homes and a dozen businesses, forcing residents to evacuate.
The family, in possession of some treasured pioneer artifacts including a shawl that came across the plains with one of their ancestors, managed to preserve their treasured heirlooms. Just a few weeks ago they took them out of the basement and into a storage facility for safer keeping.
Just a few weeks ago this Santa Clara family took precious heirlooms out of the basement and into a storage facility for safer keeping.
“This is a picture of my husband’s grandma. It would have been ruined if we left it down there,” a member of the family said. “It’s kind of a neat story.”
They’re still trying to salvage decade’s worth of pictures, painstakingly prying them apart and wiping off red clay. They do it so a sudden surge of water can’t wash away the lives and lessons of the family that came before. It’s a bittersweet recovery, but a minor victory for the family nonetheless.
SANTA CLARA — All roads are open, but with limited access, as cleanup continues in Santa Clara. A fast-moving flood caused a breach in a retention basin, flooding homes and businesses around noon Tuesday.
Volunteers and city crews started the cleanup early Wednesday morning. At least 600 volunteers spent the day trying to make life better for their neighbors.
“I want to cry. I mean, I couldn’t imagine coming out in the morning and seeing all of it and going, I have to clean this up?” volunteer Melissa Ericksen said.
The water and mud were merciless, even pushing a hot tub — which was full of water at the time — off of its foundation.
I want to cry. I mean, I couldn’t imagine coming out in the morning and seeing all of it and going, I have to clean this up?
–Melissa Ericksen, volunteer
Juliann Wiest couldn’t believe how bad the damage was. “I can’t even tell you,” she said, “There’s 3 feet of mud in my yard. The house is OK — it was a miracle, my house only got 2 to 3 inches of mud in it.”
*My note: ( Her father-in-law told her late husband Rick not to build there as it would flood.)
Just down the street, the damage was truly unbelievable. High water mark was about 4 feet high. One homeowner, who didn’t want to go on camera, told KSL News her kitchen table floated clear out to the front door.
At a Wednesday morning news conference, Santa Clara Mayor Rick Rosenberg said 31 homes were affected. Some have structural damage and several may need to be condemned, he said. Others have mud, debris and water damage. All of the affected homes’ basements were damaged to some extent.
The mayor pointed out that most of the homeowners did not have flood insurance, and it would not have covered basements anyway.
Rosenberg also praised the relief effort, including the hundreds of volunteers who showed up to help. Chris Michel was one of them, and he came from 6 miles away to lend a hand.
Dozens of structures damaged in Santa Clara flood
A breach in a retention basin caused a surge of water to flow into a Santa Clara neighborhood Tuesday, resulting in flood damage to at least 25 homes and a dozen businesses, forcing residents to evacuate.
“I’ve been through some of this stuff before, myself,” he said, “and to know what it’s like is pretty rough.”
If they’re not doing the bulk of the heavy lifting, volunteers donning hole-riddled jeans caked with mud are certainly the backbone here.
Rosenberg said electricity had been restored to almost all of the affected homes. Power was expected to be completely restored early Wednesday afternoon. Infrastructure like sewer and water lines were not damaged.
Because there only 31 homes affected, city leaders said they’re fighting an uphill battle trying to get homeowners federal relief. The standard threshold to receive aid is 100 homes or more.
The retention pond that overflowed Tuesday was built in 1919 and was scheduled for an upgrade. County officials earlier said they’ve never had a problem with it previously. The mayor said it likely will be rebuilt.
Contributing: Nadine Wimmer, Mike Headrick, Alex Cabrero and Jennifer Stagg

So, there you have it. All that damage that could have been metigated had the modern wisdom of man not been foolish.

They could have left the tamarisk bushes, kept the pond and the dike in use and good repair and left a course for the old wash and it’s waters to flow in. Because you can’t fool Mother Nature.