High Provo River levels prompt increased caution

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Dani Jardine
Water is released into the Provo River. A controlled release from the Jordanelle and Deer Creek reservoirs is leading to increased Provo River water levels. (Dani Jardine)

Provo River water levels are high as a result of a controlled water release from the Jordanelle and Deer Creek reservoirs.

According to Provo Public Works Director Dave Decker, water levels in the Provo River expected to remain high for the next 30 days, and those going near any river or canyon stream should exercise extreme caution.

“We’re trying to get the word out to parents and residents to be very careful around the Provo River and any river if you’re going into a mountainous area where there might be a natural stream,” Decker said. “A lot of caution needs to be taken for about the next 30 days.”

A 4-year-old and two others drowned on Memorial Day in the Provo River near Bridal Veil Falls.

BYU accounting major David Clarke went to Vivian Park on Memorial Day and saw police cars, multiple fire trucks, ambulances and stopped traffic from near the mouth of the canyon to near Nunn’s Park. He saw people looking into the river for about a mile. He said he only found out what happened when he was leaving the canyon.

“I was surprised to see so many people in the river though, further up around Vivian Park — not doing crazy river sports, but just playing in the river where it’s kind of shallow,” Clarke said.

Decker said the water quantity hasn’t been this high for the past five years.

“I would just exercise a lot of caution around rivers and canyons,” Decker said. “The water is cold and fast, and people need to be very, very careful.”

Decker said the Provo River Water Users Association and the state engineer’s office oversee the controlled release. The two organizations decide how much water is released and when.

A total of 134,141 acre-feet of water has been released this year from Deer Creek Reservoir alone, according to the Provo River Water Users Association website.

“This year the high snow amount has generated more than a higher standard of release,” Decker said. “It’s not been unprecedented. We had a similar release in 2011 and at other times when we’ve had a high snowpack like this.”

Dani Jardine
A person walks across a bridge above Provo river, showing how close the water is to the bottom of the bridge. Public Works Director Dave Decker encouraged those visiting the Provo River and other mountain streams are to exercise extreme caution because the water is cold and fast flowing. (Dani Jardine)

Right now the excess water flows are flowing into Utah Lake, Decker said. Decker said the current levels are a nice relief since the state experienced a drought for the last five years.

“It’s a very good outlook for the water year,” Decker said. “We’re seeing a very high amount of water content in the remaining snow, and we’re already getting told that the water allocation in the reservoirs is at a full 100 percent.”

Provo City Council was recently proposed a total spending of $4.9 million for the city storm water budget. Decker said the budget does not go toward these types of controlled releases, but rather is spent on flood control, such as sand bags and other measures.

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