Feds assess flood damage in Oakley
June 22, 2010
With homes still drying out after major flooding in the Oakley area, help from the federal government could soon be on the way.
The Weber River overran its banks on June 5 and a team from the Federal Emergency Management Agency assessed the damage in South Summit on Monday. A swift stream still rushed by a home near Pinion Lane, where several houses were surrounded by water when the river broke through its bank, in early June.
"It was all water, everywhere you look," Summit County Public Works Administrator Kevin Callahan said as an examiner from FEMA inspected the bank Monday afternoon.
Patching the breach required crews using heavy equipment to haul in material. The vehicles ripped up a nearby field.
"This is what we had to do in order to bring the material out there," Callahan said, pointing to tire tracks in the grass.
Along with damaging homes, the flooding also wiped out roads and bridges. FEMA officials visited places hardest hit by the flood.
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They will finish assessing the damage and submit a report to Gov. Gary Herbert, who decides whether to make a request for federal assistance. Residents whose homes or businesses were damaged by flooding could receive funding. They should file a report with Summit County.
"We’ve asked people to advise us if they have suffered structural damage to their homes," Callahan said.
The form is available online at http://www.summitcounty.org.
Information can also be provided over the phone by calling 435-336-3970 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.
FEMA may also reimburse local governments for other flood-related costs. Officials are tallying overtime and equipment costs, and the number of hours several hundred volunteers spent sandbagging.
"We’ve got a ton of volunteer hours," said Butch Swenson, who oversees Summit County’s Local Emergency Preparedness Committee.
FEMA inspector Jim Houghton said officials would need to provide the names and telephone numbers of the volunteers to be reimbursed for the time they spent sandbagging.
"They must be involved in something that had to do with the disaster itself," Houghton said.
Meanwhile, Oakley Mayor Blake Frazier blamed the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District for some of the flooding along the Weber River. Weber Basin operates the Smith and Morehouse reservoir at the river’s headwaters.
Weber Basin should have done more to control how much water was leaving the reservoir during the flood, Frazier said.
"They accept the water, but they accept no responsibility that goes with it," Frazier said Monday. "It’s been the same way with Weber Basin since the beginning — they take everything and they give nothing."
But Weber Basin is not responsible for the river channel, according to Mark Anderson, assistant general manager for the water conservancy district.
The Smith and Morehouse reservoir is not a flood-control facility. The river channel might have filled with debris, causing it to hold less water.
Anderson said Smith and Morehouse is a small reservoir and there are no plans to increase its capacity.
Summit County Manager Bob Jasper said county officials also cannot alter river channels. State and federal agencies oversee the rivers.
"I don’t think that, as we sit today, that we can just go out there and start moving debris," Jasper said. "How do we accept responsibility for a river that is supposed to meander and people know that they are living in flood plains? I don’t think we can solve the problem, but I think that we can do some things to help."
But Frazier demanded answers.
"Somebody has to accept responsibility for the river bed. Do we blame God?" Frazier said. "I want some answers as to who, what, when, how and why."