Here’s where a water manager puts flood risk now

Consistent warm weather has allowed much of northern Utah’s snowpack to ease off the mountains, and the risk of floods could soon be over.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) High water flow jumps the snaking banks of the Weber River near Farmington Bay, flooding adjacent farmland on Tuesday, May 2, 2023.

For the flood risk in parts of northern Utah, it looks like the area could soon be in the clear.

Not only did the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City cancel the state’s remaining flood warnings, including along the Bear River, but rivers in the area reached peak flows in previous days, according to Scott Paxman, general manager for the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District. The district delivers water to Weber, Davis, Morgan and Summit counties, along with some parts of Box Elder.

“I was under the impression from all forecasts [and] everything that we had passed the [runoff] peaks, and that is true on probably 90% of the rivers and streams in our basin,” Paxman said Thursday. He added that, at this point, much of the runoff still will fill up the remaining room in reservoirs.

However, rivers and streams could always see upticks in flow, as Paxman said that happened to the Weber River near Oakley earlier this week. That river hit a new peak flow Wednesday night after hitting a peak two weeks earlier.

“I think the warmer weather just kind of finally hit the upper snowpack, those high elevation snowpacks, and it’s coming down,” he told The Salt Lake Tribune.

Paxman said the consistently warm weather around northern Utah created the perfect conditions to avoid flooding and ease the snowpack off the mountains. The record snowpack understandably caused worry around Utah, even leading to state lawmakers setting aside funds to help mitigate potential damage from flooding.

The state has largely avoided widespread floods, but some of the northernmost parts of the state have reported damage and livestock deaths along the Bear River. High flows along the upper Ogden and lower Weber rivers flooded fields and yards in Weber County, even washing out the land under part of a road in Ogden Canyon.

As of Thursday, Utah’s total snow-water equivalent is nearing zero, according to figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But some places, like Tony Grove Lake, situated in the Bear River Mountains outside of Logan, still have over 14 inches worth of water in its snowpack, according to USDA figures. The peak of Ben Lomond, situated above Ogden and much of Weber County, has just over a foot of water still trapped in its snowpack.

But the consistently warm weather has water managers like Paxman optimistic the northern parts of the state are beyond their peak for water. He said East Canyon Reservoir, located in Morgan County, will still likely spill over next week.

“It’s 98% full,” Paxman said. “So we’re estimating that by the 13th, so that’s next Tuesday, that it will be spilling by then.”

But as of now, the amount of water running off into the reservoir has dropped significantly, meaning Paxman doesn’t expect flooding downstream of East Canyon. Aside from the Weber River headwaters near Oakley, the area’s peak flows are in the rearview, meaning it’s likely the area’s flooding risk is over.

“I think we’re actually done with that flooding potential,” Paxman said. “We’re well over the peaks, we’re well, down to kind of normal flows, actually, in a lot of the areas. So yeah, I think we are out of the woods, truthfully.”