OGDEN -- Although Gov. Gary Herbert maintains local government is the first line of defense against widespread flooding in Northern Utah, the Weber County Commission believes the state will provide financial aid and other assistance if requested.
For weeks, Weber County residents and officials have been involved in a herculean effort to tackle ongoing flooding, Commissioner Jan M. Zogmaister said Thursday, and they aren't looking for charity from the state.
However, the county has filed a disaster declaration as a precursor for possible financial assistance from the state to address an estimated $90 million in flood damage to farms and businesses, she said.
"We are not asking the state to come in with a handout," Zogmaister said. "We've been on top of it and are doing our part. As a community, we have always taken care of our own. After we exhaust all our resources, we may be seeking help from the state."
Herbert said at a Tuesday news conference, following a tour of flood-damaged property in western Weber County, that landowners need to take care of themselves as much as possible and then turn to local government.
Herbert also discussed a state government website, www.bereadyutah.gov, that offers advice for individuals and businesses to prepare for and respond to flooding and other emergencies.
"This is an all-hands-on-deck exercise as we work together for the good of the whole," Herbert said at the news conference. "We kind of had a perfect storm generated. ... What we are trying to do is have the perfect response."
Ally Isom, Herbert's spokeswoman, said the message the governor was attempting to convey was that people need to be ready for the inevitable increased flooding and also be assured that the state is prepared to provide assistance.
"We are about as ready as we can get," she said Thursday of the state's preparation efforts.
The state is exploring the possibility of working with Weber County officials to build a diversion canal in West Weber to alleviate flooding, Isom said. The state also has about 325,000 sandbags and several sandbagging machines available for counties.
Herbert also has offered to brief state lawmakers next week on flood relief efforts, Isom said.
State Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville, said he supports the notion that property owners and county governments should provide the first line of defense against flooding. However, state and federal governments may have to provide help depending on the extent of damages, he said.
The Utah Department of Natural Resources provided assistance last week by cutting into roads in the Ogden Bay Waterfowl Management Area in West Weber to try to lower water levels and prevent flooding upstream, said Commissioner Craig L. Dearden.
Commissioner Kerry Gibson said he's confident that Herbert and state officials will continue to provide needed assistance to the county.
"He (Herbert) wants everyone to understand that county government ought to be running point (on flooding) and that the state's role is to provide support," he said.
"They count on us to make specific requests, and we fully intend to do that."