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Cool Weather Keeps Rivers in Banks

Cool Weather Keeps Rivers in Banks

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP/KSL News) -- Cool weather is help keeping Utah rivers in their banks, but some areas of the state still are in danger of flooding during the remainder of May and June, water officials said.

Rain and snow intensified concerns over flooding Wednesday morning and made roads slick.

In a related development Tuesday, Congress completed action on providing $63 million to restore watersheds and repair river banks damaged by flooding in southwestern Utah in January. The money was in an $82 billion emergency spending bill, which primarily funds military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. President Bush has said he will sign it.

The rainy weather in Utah has been accompanied by lower temperatures, helping to hold back the runoff. At higher elevations, the precipitation has fallen as snow, adding to runoff still to come.

Weber County has passed out 8,000 sandbags as residents prepare for possible flooding from the Ogden and South Fork rivers.

So far, they have had no problems, said Lance Peterson, director of emergency management for the county. "We don't have a drop of water in anyone's home," he said.

Ogden officials stockpiled 10,000 sandbags but have not given out many.

Water officials meeting in Sandy Tuesday, said certain areas remain vulnerable to flooding from runoff. These include south of the Uinta Mountains on the eastern side, including near Randlett; Coal Creek near Cedar City; and a stretch of the Sevier River north of Hatch.

Brian McInerney, hydrologist for the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City, said other areas also could be flooded by runoff combined with rain.

A large accumulation of snow remains in the upper elevations.

"Peak flows will occur in late May and early June," with the levels depending on temperature and precipitation, McInerney said.

Many of the state's reservoirs will fill, said Ed Vidmar of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Some of these are so full that their managers have been releasing unusually high levels of water.

For example, Hyrum Dam has stepped up releases into the Little Bear River from 600 cubic feet per second to 1,200 cfs.

Reservoirs not expected to fill include Scofield Reservoir in Carbon County, Soldier Creek Reservoir in Wasatch County and Lost Creek Reservoir in Morgan County.

The weather changes are a mixture of good and bad news for farmers and ranchers. Many will have more irrigation water, but some have so much water they can't plant.

Allotments from Bear Lake are still not 100 percent of normal, said Connely Baldwin, hydrologist for Utah Power, which manages the irrigation water in Bear Lake, but they are up 68 percent from last year.

"We made the irrigation allocation of 141,000 acre-feet," he said. "That's for all of the users," including farmers and ranchers in Box Elder and Cache counties.

That is 61 percent of what it normally allocates, but runoff and rainfall from this year's wet spring should mean farmers and ranchers will have close to 100 percent of what they normally get, he said.

"Now they have a different problem," he said. "Their fields are too wet to plant. It's kind of a double whammy."

Farmers and ranchers in Box Elder County received only half their normal allotment of water last year.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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