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Officials complete evaluation of high-water damages; county may qualify for fed assistance

By Rob Nielsen - | Aug 29, 2023

Rob Nielsen, Standard-Examiner

The Weber River runs high near Ogden's Kayak Park on April 13, 2023.

Weber County may qualify for federal assistance to repair flood damages and cover related expenses.

Eli Johnson, Weber County emergency management coordinator, told the Standard-Examiner that officials have had an opportunity to inspect area rivers for damage caused by this year’s higher-than-normal runoff.

“We’ve done the stretch of the lower and upper Weber rivers from the confluence down and the confluence up to the mouth of Weber Canyon,” he said. “We pretty much walked the upper Weber River from the mouth of Weber Canyon and kayaked the lower Weber and GPS located all of the sandbars, bank erosion and stuff like that.”

Johnson said the department will be speaking with the Utah Division of Water Rights about their findings this week.

“We’ll have representatives from their organization in town to discuss the stream damages and how we need to proceed forward with stream alteration permits with the state and Army Corps of Engineers to start working on repairs of the damages we’ve been able to identify,” he said.

According to Johnson, some minor damage was discovered along the south fork of the Weber River.

“We don’t have a lot of significant bank erosion,” he said. “We’ve noticed that there are some changes in the stream bed itself. There’s been some large debris piles that have been deposited along the south fork, some large boulders that have been moved. A lot of that, we’re just not too sure if there’s anything that can be done as far as that goes.”

One concern, Johnson said, is that removal of some of these items might have adverse effects downstream.

“For the most part, as far as the stream bed itself and the stream channel, we’re going to try and let nature take its course as best it can along the south dork,” he said.

Johnson said there wasn’t significant bank erosion along the lower Weber River, but some spots will need additional fill and placement of riprap, or rock used to protect shorelines. Some sandbars would also be dredged from this area.

He added that officials are still working through the estimates for repairs, but he thinks the county may qualify for federal assistance after these inspections.

“We’re still working through the process with the state as far as a (Federal Emergency Management Agency) declaration,” he said. “With the surveys done, we’re a lot closer to that threshold. … The damages for the entire county, roughly, are right around $1.2 (million) to $1.5 million. We’re definitely a lot closer to that.”

In July, Johnson said the threshold for Weber County to receive aid would be just over $1.2 million in damages and direct costs.

He said being proactive helped stave off situations like what was seen in 2011.

“The greatest thing that we had this year as opposed to years in the past — we really were able to get ahead of things,” he said. “Everybody identified at the end of December/first of January that we had a real significant potential for some runoff flooding and we were able gather together all of the partners.”

This included close coordination with the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District and several state and federal agencies.

Johnson said there was also a lot of luck in the fact that the weather wasn’t overly wet during the spring and summer.

“If we’d seen the kind of rain storms we’ve seen in the last week during that runoff period, I don’t think there’s anything that could’ve been done to prevent massive flood events,” he said. “Mother Nature just gave us one heck of a break.”


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