Emergency officials consider plan to breach levee in Weber County

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HUNTSVILLE — Weber County Emergency management officials met Wednesday to discuss plans to breach a levee at the Ogden Bay Refuge to facilitate the flow of river water into Great Salt Lake wetlands as way to help alleviate pressure.

Similar breaches have been either considered or conducted in Salt Lake and Davis counties.

The breach could happen as early as Thursday, or it could be several days, according to Ron Hodson with the Division of Wildlife Resources.

Workers would create hole in a levee at the refuge on the Weber River to help ease pressure on the structure by emptying water into the Great Salt Lake as levels could rise about a foot over the next two days.

A flood warning is in effect from the mouth of Weber Canyon to the Great Salt Lake.

"We're very concerned right now about businesses, farmland and homes along the Weber River and taking every step possible to minimize the potential damage," said Weber County commissioner Kerry Gibson. "Farming is the livelihood for a lot of people in our county so if their homes aren't damaged by the floods, their farmland could also be at risk."

On Tuesday, county commissioners signed an emergency declaration of disaster in anticipation of widespread flooding. It says the Weber and South Fork rivers are expected to stay above flood stage for some time, impacting more than 40 homes and 50 businesses. It also says the levees along the Weber River have been compromised by the high flows, are damaged and in need of repair.

Local landowners already flooded

While emergency managers try to determine the best place to move the water through, some are saying it's too late -- the damage is already done.

The saturated fields make for poor grazing land for horses. If they stay in the water for too long, it could destroy their hooves.

"They've been under water for three weeks now," said Paul Barney, who owns a large horse property that now looks like a large pond. "I've got to get their hooves dried off, so I'm taking them somewhere else."

Barney says the likely cause of his flooded fields is the increasing pressure from the nearby Ogden Bay levee. Now he's trying to get all of his livestock to safer ground.


But for farmer Larry Hansen, there's not much left he can save. Hundreds of acres of his land are already soaked. It could take him a few years to recover.

"Every one of these fields that you see here is ruined for the rest of the year," he told KSL.

Hansen says a gate near his property -- kept closed to protect wetlands for decades -- should have been cleared months ago.

"Nobody's paying attention. We've told them all along this is what the problem is, and they won't listen," he said.

Those wetlands are managed by the Department of Natural Resources. Along with Weber County Emergency Management, they're trying to find the best place to break the levee.

"There's really a question as to how much of this is really going to affect any of that out there," Hodson said. "Frankly, there is a question about that, but we're going to open that all up and hopefully it'll have an effect."

Weather Service issues warning

A flood warning is in effect from the mouth of Weber Canyon to the Great Salt Lake.

Emergency officials consider plan to breach levee in Weber County

According to the National Weather Service, damage is expected along the river's levee system, because of how much water is flowing through.

In Croyden, a bridge is threatened. One local business, Holcin, a cement manufacturing company, has several trucks that cross the bridge daily. The company plans to reroute its trucks, which will add an extra 30 minutes to their drive.

"It’s a little bit more concerning as it goes along, because once it gets hot and they can’t control the Lost Creek Dam, then this is probably going to get to where it would become more of an inconvenience,” Holcin production planner Mark Rees said.

Rees says he has seen the bridge washed over before. He says when it happens again, it will stay covered with water for a few weeks., depending

Some flooding has also been reported in Plain City, Uintah, Riverdale, West Haven, Marriott-Slaterville and unincorporated areas along the Weber River. Residents in those areas have been and continue to sandbag around their homes.


Story written by Shara Park and Mike Anderson.

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