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Utah prepares for flooding with levee breach

Published on May 26, 2011 3:01AM

Last changed on May 26, 2011 12:38PM

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Officials in northern Utah are examining a levee to prepare for a deliberate breach in an effort to ease pressure along the Weber River as it reaches flood levels.

Workers are planning to create hole in a levee at the Ogden Bay Refuge on the Weber River in northern Utah to help ease pressure on the structure by emptying water into the Great Salt Lake as levels could rise about a foot over the next two days.

"We're very concerned right now about businesses, farmland and homes along the Weber River and taking every step possible to minimize the potential damage," said Weber County commissioner Kerry Gibson. "Farming is the livelihood for a lot of people in our county so if their homes aren't damaged by the floods, their farmland could also be at risk."

Officials with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources said work is beginning on the levee Wednesday and will be breached Thursday. They said flooding the vast acreage of bird refuges near the lake has helped prevent property damage in past years and will hopefully help again this year.

Major flooding has become a worry at lower elevations in northern Utah, where snowpack is well above what it was during the massive floods of 1983 that caused $250 million in damage and wiped out crops, homes and businesses, and flooded downtown Salt Lake City.

Businesses and homes in Weber County were sandbagged on Tuesday and Wednesday as water levels continued to rise largely due to runoff from melting snow in the mountains and continued rains.

"A lot of the reservoirs such as East Canyon and Pineview that feed into the rivers are near or at capacity, so as the weather warms we could face some potential problems if we don't breach the levee," said Weber County Emergency Management Director Lance Peterson. "Right now, we are just bracing for what will be coming with warmer weather in June."

The National Weather Service has issued a flood watch through Saturday for the northern Wasatch Front north of Salt Lake City, with specific attention placed on the Weber River below Echo Reservoir.

Copyright 2011 The AP.


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