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Ravell Call, KSL

Looming runoff spurs precautionary sandbagging in Weber County

By Amy Joi O'Donoghue, KSL | Updated - Apr 22nd, 2019 @ 5:38pm | Posted - Apr 22nd, 2019 @ 2:50pm

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EDEN, Weber County — Volunteers did some precautionary sandbagging Monday along the Ogden River in the upper Ogden Valley, but emergency officials say the river is not at flood stage and they're hoping to keep things that way.

Lance Peterson, Weber County's emergency management director, said there will likely be additional sandbags placed later in the week on the south fork of the Ogden River where there are about a half-dozen homes.

"The rivers are running high. Stay away from them and stay safe," he said. "There's been no flooding yet."

Peterson said he is keeping a close eye on Causey Reservoir, which is small and only holds about 7,000-acre feet of water. It is likely it could spill, he added.

"Right now we are not looking at problems."

The Ogden River as it winds down the canyon — which is dotted with homes and cabins — can handle flows of up to 1,600 feet per cubic second. Right now, it is running at about 1,000 cubic feet per second, with Pineview Dam releasing some water now to make room for more runoff.

As the river moves through Ogden, it can take on even more water, 1,800 cubic feet per second, Peterson said.

Some of that "extra water" would come from a pipeline that delivers water to the Pioneer Power Plant at the mouth of the canyon. The river in the city is running far below "bankfull" at 1,200 cubic feet per second.

Residents may think the river is high and flooding, but Peterson said the city of Ogden completed an extensive mitigation project in which crews reworked the banks and the channel.

"They did a fantastic job."

Additional mitigation work also addressed flooding risks from the Weber River in the aftermath of the 2011 flood that swamped portions of western Weber County when an embankment failed.

Peterson said a $1 million automatic trash collection system was installed so the Willard canal can continue to divert 1,000 cubic feet per second of water to Willard Bay. The system on that intake previously would collect water impeding debris, which could not be removed without shutting down the canal.

Another diversion canal installed since the 2011 flooding can send an additional 1,000 cubic feet of water per second to Willard Bay before it is sent out to the Great Salt Lake.

Peterson said he believes those engineered fixes will ward off problems encountered during that last high water year.

In Salt Lake County, emergency management spokeswoman Tina Brown said public works and engineering crews are focusing on debris management in riparian streams to ensure the free flow of water.

The county also has 6,000 filled sandbags at its public works yard in Midvale, with 25 available per household, but Brown said residents should check first with their city on sandbag availability.

State officials this year also are warning people to be particularly vigilant if they live below a burn scar.

"If you live below a burn scar, and if it's going to rain, don't have anybody sleep in the basement that night. Debris flows can move lighting fast and fill up a basement in no time," said Joe Dougherty, spokesman for the Utah Division of Emergency Management.

The state also advises residents to check out insurance options when it comes to flood insurance by going to

In 2013, the state obtained federal funding to purchase four extra weather stations the National Weather Service places in areas vulnerable to debris flows from burn scars, which are vulnerable for as long as five years after the fire is extinguished.

That extra information helps local authorities know when evacuation orders are necessary, he added.


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