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Ogden, Weber river flood threat diminishes; attention turns to damage assessment

By Rob Nielsen - | Jun 2, 2023
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A far quieter Ogden River flows out of Ogden Canyon on Friday, June 2, 2023. Weber County officials say flood risk has now mostly passed and are now turning to assessment of damages.
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Nearly a month ago on May 4, 2023, the story along the Ogden River was very different.

Flood potential is waning along the Ogden and Weber rivers as water levels drop.

Now, officials are starting to turn their attention toward damage estimates and post-event assessments.

Eli Johnson, Weber County Emergency Management coordinator, told the Standard-Examiner that things are headed in the right direction.

“We’ve kind of broke the fever,” he said. “Right now, all of the rivers are trending down and we anticipate they’ll be continuing to do so for the foreseeable future. We aren’t anticipating any spikes on the rivers that would bring them back up to flood stage right now. We’re pretty much over the hump as far as river flooding is concerned.”

He said that localized groundwater flooding remains a potential issue for residents in the region.

“With the saturation of the soils, we may have a few instances where, if we get a heavy rainstorm, we may have some really, really localized basement flooding,” he said. “As far as the rivers and the snowmelt flooding, we’re pretty much over the hump as far as that goes.”

The county hasn’t escaped damage from this year’s flooding, however. While the most dramatic instance occurred May 11 when a portion of state Route 39  washed out in Ogden Canyon, Johnson said there have been some other problem areas, and officials are just getting started on overall damage assessments.

“We’ve had a few washouts of some county roads,” he said. “We’re going to have to go back in and resurface and repair some roads here. For the foreseeable future, the mode that we’re in right now is going through all of the county infrastructure surveying it for damage, getting an idea of costs and the amount of damage sustained.”

He said it will likely be a few weeks before this assessment is completed.

“We’re just kind of doing our preliminary assessments now and getting an idea of what damage was,” he said. “A lot of that is contingent on the rivers continuing to slow down and those water levels dropping. There’s some areas where we’re pretty confident we’ve sustained some damage to some of the riverbanks and some of the waterways, but the river is still too high to see what those damages are going to entail.”

Johnson said the Upper Valley saw the brunt of this year’s flooding event, but he did not elaborate on the type of damage sustained.

“The Upper Valley really did take quite a hit as far as private property and damages there,” he said.

However, Johnson said flood defenses that were built over the last decade have held up well to the onslaught of moisture.

“The work that was done on the lower runs of the Weber and Ogden rivers that cities have put into along them, it really paid off a huge benefit as far as preventing property damage out west,” he said. “We were really, really pleasantly surprised with the emergency diversion channel. For all intents and purposes, this was the first year ever since that has been installed that it functioned for a significant amount of time. … That diversion channel was open and diverting water off the Lower Weber River for the better part of a month, and it performed really, really well. We were able to see flows drop in the river both above and below that diversion channel.”

He said part of the assessment in the coming weeks and months will be to see if there’s anything that can be done to bolster these defenses as well.

“(We’ll be) looking back to try and figure out if there’s some additional work that needs to be done on some of those drainages and identify some areas where we probably need to reset some culverts and maybe redesign some ways to get that water moving a little bit better,” he said.


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