The cracks signaled the land surface was sinking. It’s called “subsidence.” And while city leaders initially thought it might be an earthquake fault, geologists quickly found a more ominous reason.
“We came out and looked at it and quickly realized that wasn't the situation,” says Bill Lund, an expert on geological hazards for the Utah Geological Survey. “We were getting earth fissures that we could trace for a number of miles north of here.”
Lund's team checked land surveys going as far back as 1939 and they took measurements with high-tech instruments. Their findings confirm the surface is sinking and the fissures are expanding. The instruments showed the fissure near Jay Eubanks' investment house spans eight miles and one side of it is about three feet higher than the other at one end. The developer used graders to erase the fissure, which farmers just north of the subdivision had been dealing with for decades.
“The aquifer in Cedar Valley is in overdraft -- that's not news. Water managers, the conservancy district -- people know that,” says Lund. “As long as the this overdraft continues, the level of water in the in the valley will continue to drop. As long as this current level of pumping in excess of recharge continues, we can expect subsidence to continue and earth fissures to continue to form.”
The state owns all of Utah's water, and it has granted more rights to water than there is actual water to fulfill them. Meanwhile, there’s just one person tasked with enforcing all of those rights.
Eubanks is painfully aware of the consequences. He declared bankruptcy in 2014. He's still facing years of paying off the settlement.
“In summer 2012, at that point I reached the point of hopelessness,” he says.
“The fissure killed everything.”