Swan Lake may take seven years or longer to recede

Published: Apr. 9, 2019 at 6:59 PM PDT
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Monday night on Lemmon Drive, the road was covered in water as wind-whipped flood waters jumped over the Hesco Barriers and onto the road.

Seven inches or more of water made it tough for cars to work their way through the major artery through Lemmon Valley, prompting a brief road closure. And according to the county manager, this scenario is not going to go away anytime soon.

“It looks like it might take a few more years than the six or seven we initially thought to evaporate back down to a dry playa,” said County Manager Dave Solaro, regarding Swan Lake levels.

Certainly not the news commissioners wanted to hear at their meeting April 9, 2019. Some had hoped natural evaporation would take Swan Lake down to manageable levels by now.

But for Lemmon Valley residents, this was something they predicted in 2017, when a wet winter flooded homes and properties.

Crews installed Hesco Barriers to keep the waters back. Pumps have been installed. Tiger Dams were put into place last week. Still, residents say they’ve seen little relief.

They once again scolded county commissioners for being naive or just in plain denial.

“As long as you guys continue to build you are just adding to the problem,” said Lemmon Valley resident Denise Ross. “Every one of those homes needs water. They are not going to be on wells. You are going to bring water in from outside sources. This is a closed basin,” she told commissioners.

Commissioners had asked the county manager to present them with a list of options to help mitigate the problem in Lemmon Valley. He gave the commission 14. But Commissioner Kitty Jung said the information was insufficient.

“There is no fiscal notes on this. I don't know how much any of this costs, and where we would get the money,” Jung told Solaro.

Those options included trucking water out of the lake, drilling into the aquifer, levees and elevating homes. All of which will take time, money, and in some cases permission from the federal government.

There was frustration all around. Commissioners directed the county manager to make his next report more specific on what can be done.