Warren man blocks Weber River flood control project

Utah Land

WARREN — A potential showdown between Weber County and one of its residents appears to have been avoided after the signing of an easement agreement late Thursday.

The Little Weber River Cutoff Channel project is nearing completion, but not without a little drama. Warren resident Larry Hansen — who along with his wife Barbara, his brother Doug and his wife Carolyn, owns a 160-acre farm that will be bisected by the largest portion of the project — has parked his large backhoe directly in the path of the westward moving channel construction.

Hansen told the Standard-Examiner earlier this week he wouldn’t move the piece of equipment until Weber County promised him three things in writing: to replace his irrigation ditch, his pump station and seven crossings that run over the creek that will eventually be transformed into the concrete channel.

The comprehensive project is intended to build up multiple defenses against future flood events, which includes installing a new head gate on the south run of the Ogden Bay Waterfowl Management area, riverbank protection, debris cleanup along the river, and installing multiple culverts and other structures in order to better push the flow of water westward to the Great Salt Lake.

Weber County was awarded $13 million in Emergency Watershed Protection Program flood mitigation funds after a 2011 flood, when quickly thawing snow from a big winter combined with heavy spring rains combined to pour water into western Weber County. The county was required to provide a 25 percent match in either dollars or in-kind services.

Residents in the area figure they can count on such things occurring about once every 30 years. Similar floods plagued the region in 1952 and 1983.

Weber County, along with the Utah division of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, a piece of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, say the lower Weber River doesn’t have enough capacity to carry flood flows and a provide protection to surrounding agricultural and residential areas.

The two entities say that while the channel has carried flood flows to the Great Salt Lake in the past, it’s currently disconnected from the Weber River due to agricultural activities, construction of roads and dikes, and residential development. The channel was activated during the 2011 flood and several breaches had to be intentionally created in roads and embankments to move water through it.

The biggest piece of the project involves the $8.5 million, one-mile-long concrete channel that is 30 feet wide and eight feet deep — and it runs right through Hansen’s four-generation-owned property.

Hansen says he has several problems with the validity of the project, but he’s willing to let those go and only wants the county to replace what will be impacted by the project.

“I just want them to adequately replace what they’re taking away,” Hansen said. “That’s all. As soon as I get that in writing, then I’ll move the backhoe out of the way.”

Weber County spokeswoman Holin Wilbanks said the county has met with Hansen (along with several other property owners in the area) multiple times. She said an easement agreement, which spells out the county’s responsibility to replace Hansen’s items, was signed Thursday afternoon.

“The easement was signed and we are moving forward,” Wilbanks said Friday.

But on Thursday afternoon, Hansen said he was unaware of any agreement being signed and said the county must be working through his brother Doug.

“I don’t know of anything,” Hansen said. “Even if they are working on something, I probably wouldn’t sign it. I’d need to have my lawyer review it first.”

Wilbanks said the agreement wasn’t signed by Hansen, but by his brother Doug, who signed it representing the limited liability company that was created for the land. Wilbanks said the county is under the impression the backhoe will be moved when construction progresses to that point, but right now it isn’t interfering with ongoing construction and isn’t an immediate concern.

Attempts by the Standard-Examiner to reach Hansen after the agreement was signed were unsuccessful.

Contact reporter Mitch Shaw at 801-625-4233 or mishaw@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @mitchshaw23.