Ogden officials discuss flood preparedness with City Council
OGDEN — City government workers are carefully crafting their defensive strategy against potential flooding this spring.
During Tuesday’s City Council meeting, city and emergency officials alike spoke with the council about what’s being done to make sure the city is ready for flooding as the record snowpack begins to melt.
Tuesday’s meeting came on the heels of Gov. Spencer Cox declaring a state of emergency the same day, in part due to flooding.
“We’re incredibly grateful for the moisture we’ve received this winter, but the extra rain and hefty snowpack present increasing flood risks as the snow melts,” Cox said in a statement announcing the declaration. “By declaring a state of emergency, the state will be better able to tap into reserve funds to support flood response and mitigation efforts. In short, we’ll be better prepared for what lies ahead this spring.”
Ogden Public Services Director Jay Lowder told the council his department is keeping a close eye on the situation.
“As far as public services and the floods, we are mainly monitoring and maintaining the rivers and the creeks around the city where we know we have problems,” he said. “We’ve been spending the last couple of months cleaning debris out of the river, cleaning trees out of the river, beaver dams, you name it.”
He said debris in the waterways will be a constant issue, even with the cleaning efforts that have been taken.
“As the water rises, even though we’ve spent the last two months getting rid of debris out of the river, high water flow — no matter how good of a job we do — does loosen additional trees,” he said. “We’ve had about seven trees in the last few weeks loosen up on the banks. Forestry crews have gone in and removed them during high water, which is not a thing you really want to do because it’s a dangerous operation.”
It’s not only the rivers that have needed debris removal ahead of spring runoff.
“We’ve been cleaning storm drains and our inlets,” Lowder said .”The problem is there’s been very few times we could see our inlets because it wouldn’t stop snowing. That’s why we’ve asked the public to help keep our inlets clean, because we’re a little behind because of the snowpacks we’ve had.”
In addition to keeping on top of potential blockages in waterways and watching the weather forecast, Lowder said 2,000 filled sandbags are in storage with another 40,000 empty bags ready to be filled.
“As soon as we fill a sandbag, it starts disintegrating, so we try to keep it dry as long as we can,” he said. “We’ve done pre-deployments before and the sandbags end up in places that never need it.”
Should the time come, Lowder said the department will be ready to fill those bags a little quicker thanks to the inventiveness of parks crews.
“My parks division, under the the guidance of Jacob Chadwick and the structural crew in parks, made a new sand machine,” he said. “They couldn’t sleep. They had this vision in their head.”
Lowder said the machine can fill four sandbags per minute, or around 240 per hour. Additionally, an existing sand apparatus used by the street crew can fill about 200 bags per hour.
“We are ready,” Lowder said. “We are determined to be on the offense.”
Ogden Emergency Manager Kenneth Miller also spoke before the council Tuesday.
“In January or February, I met with Public Works just so I had an idea of what plans we had in place, because we knew this was going to be an issue,” he said. “Public Works let me know what they plan on doing when the snowmelt starts to hit — monitor every creek, every river, all of the bridges. They have those plans in place and I felt comfortable with those plans.”
He said that there will be a need for volunteers when any substantial flooding hits.
“Recently, I’ve been getting a lot of community groups reaching out to me asking, ‘What can we do?'” he said. “We got ahold of our volunteer coordinator and she created a weblink for these volunteer groups to click on. … Once we get all of the sandbags there from Public Works, we do have people there to pass them out, but it’s going to take some time. The more volunteers we have, the better off we’re going to be. The good thing about our city is that the residents of our city care about each other and care about the city.”
Miller said he’s received no reports of river flooding causing property damage in Ogden yet.
“To my knowledge, up to date, we haven’t had any sort of flooding issues that have affected private property that has gone into homes,” he said. “We do have a lot of homes that have groundwater seepage, but those are things that, truly, we can’t control. We’re letting people know, as hard as it is, the groundwater and water on your property from snowmelt that’s built up around your foundation, that’s kind of your responsibility.”
Council member Ben Nadolski said it’s important to show appreciation to those preparing the city for flooding.
“This stuff just grinds on staff — grinds them into the ground, really — especially when you’re talking about the same people that had to do all the snow plowing now have to do a lot of the sandbagging,” he said. “For anybody listening in the public, just remember we’ve got some people that are already really tired, I’m guessing. Remember grace, remember love, remember support and appreciation for one another. They’re not just a public servant that we pay with our tax money, they’re people that live in this community and help protect and support our community.”