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Weber County declares flooding emergency

By Rob Nielsen - | May 4, 2023

Rob Nielsen, Standard-Examiner

The Ogden River runs high as it approaches the city April 11, 2023.

More entities are preparing for flooding and its potential aftermath.

During its regular meeting Tuesday, the Weber County Commission voted unanimously to declare a local emergency due to imminent flooding.

“At the time we started looking at this emergency, it was imminent,” Commissioner Gage Froerer said while introducing the proclamation. “Now I don’t think it’s imminent — I think it actually exists in some areas. I think we’ve seen that, so I think the timeliness is very important.”

Chief Civil Deputy Chris Crockett discussed the reasoning for such a declaration.

“Under the law, what this is doing, essentially, is recognizing that we are facing a serious public safety issue and we have plans and there are statutes that were written specifically for events like this,” he said. “We are letting not only the state of Utah know, but the federal government know, that we are facing a disaster and we’re anticipating there’s going to be a financial cost to that. There are programs set up to assist counties with dealing with those financial costs.”

He said that this also shows that there is urgency in that need.

“There’s a process for everything in local government,” he said. “But under a situation like this, we need to speed up that process.”

Crockett said there’s ultimately one goal of such a declaration.

“We know that there’s going to be damage,” he said. “We haven’t seen water like this or snowpack like this maybe in forever. We all remember the floods of ’83 and the damage that (came), so we’re anticipating that there’s damage. The purpose of this is to mitigate that damage as best that we can.”

He noted there’s been physical efforts at damage mitigation such as sandbagging over the last couple of months. He also said the declaration expires after 30 days unless a need arises to renew it.

The commission was also addressed by Weber County Emergency Manager Lisa Gosline, who said efforts have long been underway to plan for this spring’s flooding.

“We started a little over two months ago with engineering, emergency management and roads departments to talk about everything we felt like we needed to do in preparation for this,” she said. “About a month ago, that expanded to meeting with (the County Commission) as well as DWR (Division of Wildlife Resources). Weber Basin Water Conservancy District was in attendance, UDOT (Utah Department of Transportation) was in attendance (along with) other players that come to the table with a desire to help us do the best we can in preparation for this. ”

Physical mitigation efforts, she added, go further back.

“There has been mitigation that’s been going on for years after 2011 and 2017,” she said. “That’s been very helpful, but there’s been a lot of mitigation going on in the last two months as well by the engineering department and the roads department.”

Gosline said this has included regular checks of tributaries and rivers, drone over-flights of prone areas, sandbagging and regular monitoring of weather conditions along with coordination with various regional entities.

Also addressing the commission was Weber County engineer Gary Myers, who noted that the Weber River would likely average around 4,500 cubic feet per second, or CFS, toward the end of this week after being around 2,000 CFS on April 2.

“A CFS … is about the size of a basketball,” he said. “Imagine 2,000 basketballs passing by you in one second.”

He said the engineering department has also been working closely with other agencies in the county.

Myers also discussed some of the improvements that have been made since major floods of the past.

“In 2011, we lost a bank right around 3,300 CFS,” he said. “That breach instigated what we built and constructed as the Little Weber Channel. It is designed to take water off the Weber River to take some pressure off those banks. It takes it essentially northwesterly through the county from where it is and puts it into the Great Salt Lake around Compass Minerals.”

Trees and sandbars have also been removed from along the river to help mitigate the amount of debris in the river channel.

“We were in a much better spot than we were in 2011,” Myers said. “That being said, that’s a lot of water coming at us, so we’re trying to do the best we can to manage it in the best way possible.”

Emergency Management Coordinator Eli Johnson also addressed the commission, briefly talking about coordination efforts with other entities in the county and the region.

“We’ve been able to distribute in excess of 65,000 sandbags and the sand for residents toto fill them to protect their properties,” he said. “We anticipate that, with the higher flows, we’ll continue to do that, but for the most part the individuals who live along those problem areas of the drainages, they’ve been through this before, they’ve spoken to their neighbors and we’re pretty much at the point where what can be done for those properties has been done.”

Froerer said the county is ultimately doing what it can for the situation.

“We’ve done what we can as a county, now it’s what I call personal responsibility — do what you can, help your neighbors, help yourself,” he said. “We’ve got the sandbags out there. Take some responsibility upon yourself to protect you and your neighbors. Now is the time to do it.”


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