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Weber County prepares for disaster declaration with floods

By Amy Joi O'Donoghue | Posted - May 24, 2011 at 10:00 p.m.

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OGDEN — Weber County Commissioners have signed an emergency declaration of disaster in anticipation of widespread flooding expected tonight.

"We know we are going to get hit," said Commissioner Kerry Gibson, who is also a dairy farmer in the vulnerable area of Plain City on the county's western side.

"This is just in response to the flood levels on the rivers and we know what is coming," he said. "We are pretty much in critical condition everywhere along the Weber and Ogden rivers."

We are pretty much in critical condition everywhere along the Weber and Ogden rivers.

–Kerry Gibson, Weber County commissioner


The only exception, he did add, is where the Ogden River flows out of Pineview Reservoir through Ogden Canyon, because water managers have dropped the level of the dam so much.

Emergency management officials are advising homeowners in the rural communities where the Weber River passes through farmlands to take precautions by sandbagging. No mandatory evacuation orders have been issued, Gibson stressed.

They are also planning to deliberately breach a levee at the Ogden Bay Refuge, to facilitate the flow of river water through the wetlands to the Great Salt Lake as way to help alleviate pressure.

"Tomorrow morning, at 8 o'clock, they're going to meet out there on the levee with some engineers and figure out the best place where they're going to get the biggest bang for their buck and breach that levy," said Weber County Emergency Management director Lance Peterson.

Similar breaches have been either considered or conducted in Salt Lake and Davis counties. And residents are hopeful it helps.

"It's a little comforting, but discomforting at the same time because we can be under water for quite some time," said Katie Hartshorn.

The south fork of the Ogden River has caused problems to the east, where a portion of a road at Snowbasin has been flooded and several summer homes as well as campgrounds have been impacted.


The county has received over an inch of rain below its reservoirs, which has further saturated the soils and banks of the rivers. Gibson said no one is optimistic those banks will hold all along the rivers' routes.

There was concern that part of the reason the Weber River has been so swollen is that the state Department of Natural Resources has refused to fully open the gates that allow the river to dump into the Great Salt Lake.

Elsewhere, flooding is anticipated in Morgan County's Lost Creek and Logan City officials in Cache County are preparing for the worst.

Logan's flood plain manager, Bill Young, said crews are monitoring the river "around the clock," and are constantly choking historical choke points along the waterway, where natural debris or trash can pool, causing the waters to rise.

Property owners along the Logan and Blacksmith Fork rivers have also been given stakes to delineate the 100-year-flood elevation so they can be aware of trouble as the flows increase.

It is anticipated with warmer weather due to arrive this weekend, flooding could present widespread concerns in Cache County as well.

"We've done about all we can do," he said.

Last year, the city hired a consultant to assess the hydrology of the rivers to better determine what can be done to address the floodplain issues. He's hopeful that expertise will someday help counter the natural risks that come with having a community that is home to two rivers.


Written by Amy Joi O'Donoghue with contributions from Alex Cabrero.


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