Can a C+ good? Sure – when grading on a curve. The Utah section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) released their 2020 report on Utah’s infrastructure. We got a C+, unchanged from five years ago. However, K.N. Gunalan, past president of ASCE said “the grade is one of the highest in the nation. Utah should be very proud.” There are 12 categories of infrastructure to be graded: aviation, bridges, canals, dams, drinking water,hazardous waste, levees, roads, solid waste, stormwater, transit and wastewater Utah did the best in bridges, transit and roads, all graded as a B+. We did the worst in levees (D-) and canals (D+).
In the report card, ASCE notes that levees are an instrumental part of Utah’s flood control system, with over 125,000 residents protected by the levee infrastructure. Should they fail, the damage to property could exceed $10 billion. There are between 102 and 112 miles of levee statewide, with over 250 individual segments averaging 60 years old. Additionally, there are an estimated 5300 to 8300 miles of canals across the state, most of them earthen embankments and cut ditches. Many are over 100 years old and not constructed or designed for modern standards or usage.
To improve Utah’s overall score, ASCE Utah recommends the following:
- Develop a statewide risk assessment program that prioritizes and funds levee and canal projects.
- Improve the frequency of dam rehabilitation.
- Extend the life-cycle cost of drinking water, stormwater and wastewater by establishing statewide guidelines with an eye to the future.
- Update the state’s waste management practices.
- Improve access to frequent, reliable transit and increase access to underserved communities.