Farmers along the banks of the Weber River are clashing with Weber County. Each group claims the other is responsible for preventing the river from flooding and ruining crops.
The farmers say the county has neglected the river in the western part of the county, putting their farms in danger when the spring thaw comes.County officials say the farmers who work in a known flood plain and then try to shore up its banks with junk and debris are the real problem.
Larry Hansen told a recent meeting of the West Weber River Advisory Committee that the river has needed dredging and cleaning since a 1983 flood that inundated area farms.
Hansen said he needed a boat to get to his home then. If the river floods again, he said, he and his neighbors will lose a year's income.
Hansen said that if the county spent $10,000 on river cleaning work now, it might save the farmers and the county hundreds of thousands of dollars later.
But county Administrative Services Director George Burbidge said he's not so sure cleaning the river is the county's job. The county has done some work in the past "as a courtesy, but we're not positive we have the final responsibility on that," Burbidge said.
"At the same time (the farmers) have got some responsibility," he said, for building their farms in land the river historically floods.
State law is vague on who has responsibility for cleaning out rivers. Ivan Flint, director of Weber Basin Water Conservancy District, said the law says the county "may" clean out rivers within its boundaries but doesn't make it clear whether that option includes preventive work.