UTAH LAKE DIKING PROBLEM
REPORT OF INVESTIGATIONS , by L. M. Winsor
In response to a speciel request by Mayor Mark Anderson of Provo
and eonfirmed by Chairman Ray H. Leavitt ot the state Aeronautics
Divi sion throug h Chie f Engineer 1!.r. Roy W. MeLeese and Chief Bridge
Engineer, r. HOllsecroft , a careful study has been made conoe r ni ng t he
feasibility of protecting the Provo Airpcrt a gainst th!t rising wat ers
ot Utah Lake t ha t thre aten c cnpl.ete inundation during the spri ng ot
1947. The following findings . oonclusions , and reoommendations are
out lined i n det ail end the s e are supp orte d by e se ries ot photographs
shatlling results of diking in other localities whe r e o onditi ons are
simila r or where they are less favorable:
1. Utah Lake is Bubje ot to a wide rang! of fluctuation in
wa t e r surface elevation from yea r to year. The Lake is used as a
storage r eservoir for surplus flood wat e r s fran P rovo Ri ver, Spanish
Fork ani otl:l!:lr smaller streams. According t o Court Decree , it is ruled
t hat control gates mus t be opene d when Lake l avel r eaches "Compromise"
which i s e l eva tion 4488.95 ft. above s e a level. Aft e r tha t t he various
i nterests including agricultural lands, i ndustrial plants, t he Provo
Airport, atc. must take t he consequence of a .further i ncrease in l ake
level, whieh aecording to scme well -informed observers such as W. A.
Knight may reach thi s year an elevation at 4490 or more, plus the added
l evels due to wav e action trom high winds. (Note: As a further
r eference, see clippi ng from Salt Leke Tribune of J anuary 1 9 , 1947 ) Copy
at which is attached to this report)
2 . On February 6, the writer, assisted by Mr. Erwin oser found
the lake leve l to be at elevation 4486.87 (l[' 2. 08 teet below compranise,
and that the taxi strip at the SW corner of t he airport was already
3. The runways are found to very between elevations 4486.50 eOO
4490 . 00 a:pproximately . For thi s reason , it i s probable t hat water tram
Utah Lake will comp letely inundate the ru nways duri ng extreme high
water period unless s te p s a re taken i lll/OOdiately to pr event Slch an un-fortunate
4. It is fwnd from. an exami nation of the <rig inal p lans that
the airport wa s to have been protected f rom floodi ng by a d i ke
moat e rd with pump s to r emove seep age wa t e r that would ent e r the moat
during peri ods of hign l ake levels. For so ma r eason, the
dike , moat, and pump i nstallations were not made when the airpCD:'t was
built; hence , the p resent s ituation. Electric c onduits am lines were
laid end interior drains were i nstalled, bu t the Job of d iking was
s t opped short ot comp letion.
5. The ori gi nal pl ans f<r diki ng, e tc. were c omplete, and
adequat e , so fa r as t he t iles available indicate. am if they had been
constructed at the ti me the airport was built, the work co uld have bee n
d one on dry g round with the a i d of bulld ozzers tor stripping and for
bui lding a l ar ge part of t he embankments . Under pre sent conditions, it
is probable t hat too work lllUst be d am by dragline a t an increese i n
c ost--a material increase.
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6. Even under the present condition where rising l ake levels
threaten to inundste the airport betore prot ection can be provided ,
t he undertaking would seem to be justified by of tb3 tect tha t
(8) the essential features of t tB airport have been canpleted and
are in splendid condition except for the threat ot inundation. ( b)
1m investment of nearly ODS million dolla rs has been mede t ha t needs
to be protected. (e ) There 1s DO other site available t hat liQuId not
encroaoh up on valuable ag ri cultural lends . (Utah county 1 s not ed tor
its small f8rtns-- only :3 acrss pe r family . ) (d l It 8 new 8irp crt ot
equal size end quality were built 00 h i gher ground , jt would pr obably
c ost mere than 8 million dol la rs and the e xpense woul d heve to be
raised loc a lly with out hope of material aid from t he Nat i onal Govern-ment.
( e) In the present ins tsnce, the National Government would seem
to have a certain morel responsibility to sid , at le ast, i n completing
t he job that was l eft unfinished when t he maj or works were built.
7 . Topographic and 8011 c cnditions haTe been examined in dete1l
and everything is favorable r egarding the problem of buildi ng a dike
and swnp or moa't t hat will provide complete protection against
i nundation, even it the Lake were t o rise conslderably ( one or more
teet) above compromise.
By cOL'lpariaon wit h similar works e t tb3 mouth ot .Tordon River,
at Bear River Bey, a t Ogden Bey , at Farmington Bay and elsewher e i n
Ut ah , am at nwnerous location s on souris (Mouse) River in North
Dakota, Sand Lake, La Creek, Jim and Arrow- wood lakes i n South Dakota;
Medicine Lake , Montana; Talbot Lake. Mi nnesota; Mule - shoe Lakes, Texas;
Bi tter Lakes , New Mexico; Tule Lake california j Walhe ur Lake , oregon;
Turnbull Lakes, Washington. These and many other projects in North and
South America end en the oth er side of the world, tha t heva been planned
and built under the i mmediate supe rvi sion ot the writer g ives him e
bac kground for saying t het conditions at Provo .A1rp<rt aTe more fevOE" -
abl e tor success than at mcst of the localities named. Toere have been
no failures in any ot the diking projeets indicated. Some of them have
been in succe s s tul oper ation since 1927, and all t bose nBJTBd were
canpleted prior to 1936. Some carry water es deep a s 8 feet against
the dikes . All proj ects in the Northern states including Utah, are
subject to ice action. All have withstood t he same without seri ous
A few photographs ere tiled as a t o this report in
verification or t he statements made above .
It is tte writer's opinion t ha t th e job of protecting the provo
is entirely f easible; th a t it can be done well within the
limits of economy even Ullder t he most adverse conditions arising tran
the present high lake level ; and be is r eady to assume rull responsi -
bility t or success providing that he be given authority and necessary
financi al support . for carrying p lans t o comllletion.
8 . In or der to prevent as much damage to the airp ort as possible,
through rising lake levels, it is recommended that steps be taken im-medi
at ely to hold lake levels as lCM as possible; (a ) by pre venting the
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transfer of water, t his y ear, f r an Weber River to Deer Creek Reservoirj
(b) by arrangi ng t o till Deer Cr eek Reserv oir tram tre Provo River;
(0 ) by opening t he gates a t Jordan River Intake nOr'l, r ather than atter
or when the Lake r eac hes "Compr omise " (d ) by oper at ing the pumps int o
Jordan River now Bnd unti l hi g h water I s over to the full c apacity of
J ordan River am the c anal.
It this 1s to be done, i t woul d be pos sible even at t his l a te
date t o construct the necessary di kes at certain critical l ocati ons
t o protec t t he airport agai nst f'loodlng t h1s ye ar. I n this event, it
will be neces sary to make t anporary pump installations to hold t be
wat er l evels down i n the sumps t o pr event wat e r l oggi ng under t he
runwa ys, end t o protect the underground el ec trio c onduit s tram sh<rting
out the light i ng and t w electric pOY.'er system.
9 . In or der t o pr O'1ide complete pr otect icn a gainst tlooding nO¥!
and in future , it:1a required that a di ke am moat be built all t he way
around the airport . Soil bor i ngs rev eal a porous formation beneath a
fairly ti ght, silty clay at depths between two t o four faet. For t his
reason, a pudd l e c are must be dug to a de pth beneath t he gre ater port ion
of t m porous fonll8tion t o shut ofr as much of t he seepage water as
possi ble . Thi s is desirable even unler l ON wat er co nditions si nce t here
i s a "per ched" we te r - table (water below-the surfa ce t hat corre s tram
irri gated lands end from springs hi gon up t he slope and a formation
below the 9JI'face that holds t he ground wat er a bove low l ake levels).
At high lake levels , the puddle cor e i s i mpe:r'ative to avoid t he
necessi ty of excessive pumpi ng costs . Thi s core may be made fran the
silty cley obtained by di gging the moat around t he airport well outside
of t he area required fer s a te landing on the runways .
By hol di ng wat er l evels in t he m09.t wel l below the sub-grades
unde r t he runways tbe li fe ot t oo runways will be materi ally prolonged
and maintenance expense will be greatly reduced.
10. Sires writing t he above , a 'lund of :130 , 000 . 00 has been
raised by Provo City and t he St ate of utah, to begi n the di king pr ogr am
pr oposed. Seven dreglines are now at werk . Two of th e se ara large
mac hine s and t he c ost ot moving to am. from th e job is very heavy .
(For the yar d machine co s t at movi ng in was mer e tb a n $1 , 0.00 . 00).
If' tbe work can be carrie d t o comp letion while t hese machines
a re on the j ob , the r e sults wi ll be s ure . The eirport will be
pr otected ageinst rui nati on and the f'in e l cost Vl ill be much less t han
would be the case it a n a ttMi pt were ma.de to pr ovide temporary pr ote ction ,
with t he very limited fum nCMl available.
It is es timated that a tun1 of appr oximately $100 ,000. 00 i s required
for building t he di kes a ll t he way aroun:1 the air:por t for ins t alling
pumps for r emoving s urplus t'!ster and for hold ing down vl at er levels in the
moat and t or improving tbe system ot per manent drai nage . Also, to
complete the roadway into t he airport.
1 - Beer River Bey diking project Vies firs t
studied from the ice its sct lon on the
shore line .
2 - Ice mounds along shore line of Beer Riv er Bey.
29-80 - On the dike line i n mid winter . This shows
type of silt of which dikes were constructed .
. ' .• - ..
27- 12 - When the ice t hawed, further studies were made by
use of "The t.bd Queen", a f l at bottomed boat pr o-pelled
by a model "T" with paddl es on the wheel s which
were l ocated each side of the rear end of the boat .
27-10 1he Queen" operates best in water only
one inch deep, over a mud covered lake bottom.
28-20 - Another form of transportation was
a Franklin automobile with flanged
wheels that ran inside of a belt with
cleates on outer surface .
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3 - Test ing lake bed and delta soils for dike
location in designing Bear River Bay Project.
Plane-table survey party making map
of Bear Bay Project.
29-87 - Intersection of partition dike with outside
barrier - Bear Bay Proj ect is divided into
5 units of 6, 000 acres each. Outside dike
or barrier 1s long •
30-14 - Drag- line moving on double mats .
27-18 - Two yard dragline worked two years building
Bear River Bay dikes. This heavy machine
operated on timber mats .
29- 79 In deep water double mat s were r equired .
32- 4 Bear Bay project in full operation
two years of successful operation.
were no dike fai lures .
27-6 - Roadway leading into Bear Bay project.
Looking East from project.
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29-64 - Bear Bay dikes in mid- winter .
Ice Action on embankments
of Bear Bay.
31-16 - Ice has pushed up
a wind- row of mud
and debris against
toe of slope outside
main di ke •
30- 25 Spillway through dikes in early winter .
32-10 - I ce has no detremental effect upon flat
slopes of Bear Bay dikes . Note marks
left by heavy ice act ion that pusbed
gr eat piles all way over embankment.
32- 9 Mar ks l eft by i ce that piled high on top of
outer Bear Bay di ke dur ing break up .
Sll-l70 Completing dike at Tulee Lake.
S2 - 2 Flat elope of freshly built dike
showing beaohing etfeot ot high
1929 - Finished with partition
between units two and 3
38-160 Two yard dr.gline on meta
oonatructlDg dike aoroa. Souris
River ' . bottom. DoKatc
Mayor of Provo City and City Council cheek up
beginning of operation for diking Provo Airport
Lifting plane out of mud at Provo Airport after
plane had cracked up in soft ground between run-ways
Unloading first dragl1ne for beginning of diking
projeot at Provo Airport.
Lower Souris, North Dakota .
November 23, 1935.
Unit No . 326.
Close -up of island No . 7, with gas air machine
completing tho unit .
27- 50 - Before undert aking the final design of Bear
River Bay diking project experiments were
carried on for a full year under similar
conditions at mouth of Jordan River where a
dragline was available . Di kes were constructed
with various degrees of sl ope i . e . 1 t o Ii;
1 to 3; 1 to 6 and 1 to 10 . This picture shows
the 1 to 6 sl ope i n foreground, 1 to 10 in
middl e of pi cture and 1 to It in distance , just
as water on right began to r ise against the
28-112 - Water begins to cover slopes of experimental dike .
Beach lines along same dike after lake level
had r eceeded.
" 21- 50a Experimental dikes at mouth of Jordan when
lake was at high level .
28-114 - Same after water had receeded somewhat .
27-60 - Looking at experimental dike after heavy wave
action had worked on dikes f or a l ong time .
1 to 10 slope on left; 1 t o I i slope on right .
Looking back along 1 to 3 slope in foreground
and 1 to l! slope in distance with full lake
on l eft .
Same five years later, when lake l evel was low.
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Section of Jordan River dikes 5 years " after
Section of Jordan River dike 5 years after completionJ
showing how vegetation has gr own in shallow water
section and salt grass has cover ed dike .
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