Join FRIENDS of Great Salt Lake and Save Legacy Parkway on Thursday, February 7 from 4:00-5:00 PM at Utah State Capitol East Senate Building Room 215 as we rally support to extend the Legacy Parkway Truck Ban. Community organizers suggest we wear yellow to visibly show our support of the bill. Click here for more informaton.
By Brian Maffly
Will Utah have sufficient water in an era of declining stream flows to support a population expected to double, strong agriculture, recreation economies and a healthy environment?
While that sounds like having your Diet Coke and drinking it, too, water policy honchos believe Utah can meet its future water needs, though not without developing new sources and improving the way water is currently used.
The use-it-or-lose-it foundation of Western water law promotes waste or at least suboptimal use of this most precious natural resource and is fraught with disincentives for conservation.
Several bills cued up for this legislative session seek to reduce Utahns’ notoriously profligate water use and to add flexibility to the ways water rights are administered. In general, lawmakers prefer addressing the water question with “market-based voluntary transactions” as opposed to regulatory “command and control” oversight.
A 'bank’ for liquid assets
At the forefront of this discussion is a resolution championed by Sen. Jani Iwamoto, D-Holladay, to promote “water banking,” a program that enables growers to pause their water use without risk of forfeiting their right to the water. With agriculture accounting for 80 percent of use, banking could go along way to solving the state’s water woes.
The idea, which is already being tested on the Provo River and in Cache Valley, is to allow water that would otherwise be used for irrigation to remain in a waterway, where it would support in-stream flows and reach downstream reservoirs. Farmers who do that now can find themselves without water in the future because someone else might want to use that water.
Gov. Gary Herbert’s water strategy advisory team recently released recommendations that included developing a system to facilitate temporary water-right transfers through leases and contracts to supply competing users with water to meet short-term needs. Water banks could help implement such a recommendation, according to Iwamoto’s SJR1.
“This is something worth doing for the benefit of the state,” water attorney Steve Clyde told the Legislature’s Water Development Commission at its last meeting in November. “But we have to make sure these are valid water rights that are being banked, that people aren’t dealing with prior forfeited rights and paper rights and the speculators we have seen out there in the marketplace.”
Water banking is a critical piece of Utah’s strategy to ensure enough water remains in the Colorado River to meet downstream obligations and preserve Lake Mead and Lake Powell, which are now less than half full.
Please join HawkWatch International for an opportunity to meet and learn about our newest Raptor Ambassador.
February 5, 2019
6 - 8 p.m.
2240 South 900 East
Salt Lake City, UT
Chrys is an adult male Golden Eagle and comes to HawkWatch International after being hit by a car, the most common injury among raptors. After spending time in a wildlife rehabilitation center, Chrys was deemed non-releasable and would spend his life under human care. He'll join our other amazing Raptor Ambassadors in an effort to teach our community about conservation and the threats birds of prey face in the wild.
We hope to see you on February 5!
Join us for a FREE community meeting.
February 2 9 AM - 1:30 PM The Zion Building at the Utah State Fair Park (155 North 1000 West), Salt Lake City
You're invited to a free community forum that will examine the ecological and community impacts of the proposed Utah inland port. The inland port is proposed to be a large scale truck, train and plane frieght transfer facility on 16,000 acres of land within SLC (mostly), Magna and WVC. We'll discuss the risks of increased diesel truck and train traffic, the threats to air quality, the potential for water, light and noise pollution and loss of wildlife habitat. Come learn the details, hear from national experts on how to stop pollution caused by ports, and be involved in shaping the future of this project and our community!
FRIENDS of Great Salt Lake established the Doyle W. Stephens scholarship to celebrate Stephens' remarkable scientific contributions toward understanding the Great Salt Lake Ecosystem. This scholarship provides support to undergraduate or graduate students engaged in new or on-going research that focuses on Great Salt Lake and its ecosystem. For 2019, FRIENDS will award two $1,000 scholarships, one to a graduate researcher and one to an undergraduate researcher.
Eligibility: Applicants must be undergraduate or graduate students currently enrolled at an accredited college or university. Individuals who have previously received this award are not eligible. The award may be used to support laboratory or field research, attendance at professional meetings, or other activities that further the understanding or protection of the Great Salt Lake ecosystem. Research located anywhere in the Great Salt Lake watershed can qualify for this award. We will consider projects from any academic field (for instance: ecology, biology, chemistry, physics, geography, geology, urban planning, social sciences, communications, education, economics, tourism, engineering, etc.).
The 2019 Doyle W. Stephens Scholarship Applications are now open and will close March 15, 2019. Click here to access the application.
On Wednesday, January 16th 7 - 8:30 pm, join FRIENDS and a broad embrace of communities at Foxboro Elementary School (587 Foxboro Drive North Salt Lake) to find out more about what you can do to keep trucks from being allowed on the Legacy Parkway.
A panel will be moderated by Foxboro resident Angie Keeton. Panelist will include:
State Senator Todd Weiler
State Representative Melissa Garff Ballard
State Representative Raymond Ward
Jason Davis, Deputy Director, Utah Department of Transportation
Bryce Bird, Director, Utah Division of Air Quality'
In 2005, after a long legal battle that began in 2001 between the environmental community and federal agencies over the proposed 14 mile Legacy Highway that would impact highly productive wetlands along the eastern shore of Great Salt Lake in Davis County, a settlement was reached. The Legacy Highway would be built as a Legacy Parkway with 2 lanes in each direction, a quiet road surface, 55 mph speed limit, NO trucks and NO billboards, and an attractive/pedestrian trail with educational kiosks to enhance the experience for tail users that would run alongside the Parkway. All this next to a 2100 acre Legacy Nature Preserve to mitigate for impacts from building the road. Officially designated a Scenic Byway by the State, the only catch was that the truck ban would sunset January 1st, 2020!
Since the Parkway was completed, the road and the trail have become extremely popular for locals and people from all over the Wasatch Front. New developments with young families and children who are able to enjoy the amenities it provides have sprung up along the Parkway.
Fast forward to 2019 and we find ourselves in the era of the Inland Port. As that project is unfolding, there are a number of legislators who are anxious to bring trucks onto the Parkway by letting the ban lapse. Increasing the speed and eventually increasing the roadway capacity from 4 lanes to 6 lanes is also a goal. For obvious reasons these changes would completely alter the character of Legacy Parkway as we know it. Increased noise, impacts to air quality from trucks and diesel emissions, the increased likelihood of accidents because of vehicles moving at higher speeds, negative effects on the natural area, and the surrounding wildlife habitats, and most certainly a diminished quality of life for those residents who live along the right of way. Essentially, Legacy Parkway would become another I-15.
The cities of Woods Cross, Centerville and Farmington have signed resolutions stating they are against lifting the truck ban. Senator Todd Weiler of Davis County filed a bill to uphold the truck ban. But we also have a responsibility to express our concerns about allowing trucks on Legacy Parkway. We must start contacting our legislators NOW to tell them that we don’t want trucks on the Legacy Parkway. We also need to contact the Senate leadership – Sen. Stuart Adams and Sen. Jerry Stevenson who are receptive to the January 1, 2020 settlement sunset. And add Senator Don Ipson from southern Utah to your list. He is CEO of DATS Trucking, a company located in North Salt Lake.
As the saying goes: Once it’s gone it’s gone.
You can find who your legislators are and their contact info at https://le.utah.gov/. Let’s use the public voice to save the Legacy Parkway!!
We hope to see you at the Open House to find out more about this issue.
A unique form of vision is requisite when we attempt to truly understand Utah’s Great Salt Lake. Where some see vast, empty expanses of lifeless water, others view a broad, painted landscape of reflections, as well as a hemispherical vital migratory ecosystem. Some turn away from a stench in the air, while others revel in salty freshness mixed with microbial phytoplankton, algae, and brine shrimp, all working in complex symbioses. And where some scoff at wastelands of deserted shores, others observe flora and fauna, moving in intricate balances linked to the rise and fall of the largest hypersaline terminal lake in the western hemisphere.
The scale of the Great Salt Lake is best described by our senses as we depart from shore in ocean kayaks. My wife Deborah moves forward in front of me as I stop to photograph the flight of several Great Blue Herons, and when I look again, she is rapidly becoming a speck on a sea of water. The lake’s seventy-five mile by thirty-five mile breadth hides many horizons beneath the curvature of the earth. I cannot see land beyond Deb’s kayak, and now she herself takes up only a tiny fraction of my view. It’s time to catch up.
Beyond Deb’s kayak I see thousands of Eared Grebes that start as dots and meld into a smoke-like haze of life drifting at water level. When I stop and listen, I hear the subdued rushing of wings and webbed feet, of dips and resurfacings. The grebes are feeding on the brine flies and the brine shrimp. Mixed in with the grebes are seagulls, several varieties of ducks, and the occasional cormorant, sailing above the water. It’s migration season, and literally hundreds of species are apt to be visible on this September day.
Deb motions at a pair of Bald Eagles, and I can see a flock of White Pelicans moving far in the distance. We’ve managed to enjoy an hour now without hearing the report of shotgun reverberating across the waters, but I know this serenity will not last. Although I accept hunting, I do not grasp killing. Many, many shooters are there just for the sport, just for the kill. Utah is one of the last states where most outdoorsmen haven’t grasped the notion that one can also shoot wildlife with a camera.
I’m distracted from thoughts on arcane hunting practices when I notice a spit of land exposed that I’ve not seen before. The lake is now only two feet from its lowest level on record. Growing populations, water needs, and drought have wrought other changes. Yet I know that few people consider this lake in the context of Owens Lake, the Aral Sea, or Lake Urmia.
Shortsightedness regarding the Great Salt Lake stems from several factors, one being a dearth of research done on the lake and its greater ecosystem. Science largely overlooked this lake up until the late 1990s. We are learning now, but there is much to know. Why has the Great Salt Lake not been studied more? Some say it’s because there aren’t many terminal lakes, so they don’t attract scientific attention. Others claim that salt lakes are uninteresting, limited in the numbers of species they harbor. And of course vast, shallow salt lakes seem to have little economic impact—money drives science.
But as I paddle forward, I can see the tiny plume of smoke coming from the magnesium plant twenty miles to the west. And I know that to my north, a 45,000 acre evaporation plant is producing six million tons of salt each year. Another company creates vast stores of fertilizer from the lake’s brine shrimp. The lake supplies 1.3 billion dollars in economy to the state, and it provides 7,700 jobs. The lake is rich in life and minerals, and the impacts of harvesting are being felt before the science of the lake is fully understood.
I move alongside Deb and we stroke side by side on glass. It’s a perfectly calm morning. Reflected in the mirror of water are clouds floating above the blue lines of distant mountains. We are paddling through a sublime painting, vast and colorful, ever changing.
“Did you hear the Grebes?” Deb asks.
“Yes, when I stopped to photograph you disappearing in the distance. It was remarkable.”
“There must be thousands of them.”
“Yep. And the eagles, thanks for the heads up.”
We move with even strokes toward our destination: out there somewhere. Soon we’ll stop, five or six miles from shore, and just float for a while, listening to the sounds, soaking up the silences. No other boats are out today. Few boats travel these waters. The salt is hard on motors, the shallow bottom difficult for keels, and at this low, low level, “The World’s Saltiest Sailors” of the Great Salt Lake Yacht Club must hope for rain and snow in the mountains—hope for the lake to rise again.
“I just poked for the bottom. It’s only four feet deep here.”
“Imagine a big windstorm and four foot waves. Or rather, don’t!” she smiles back at me.
We paddle on in silence for a time. “Sure hope this lake doesn’t dry up in my lifetime.”
“Those windstorms we’ve been having with this drought would have some pretty scary minerals to throw around in our air. Gives a new meaning to downwinders doesn’t it?”
“Wow, that’s another factor I hadn’t thought about. I was still on the snow and Ski City USA wavelength.”
Just last week the local news reported two stories in one newscast. The first was the Utah Travel Council vying for the name of Ski City USA, proclaiming as always that the Wasatch Mountains have the greatest snow on earth. The second reported the Bear River Water Conservancy’s plans to divert enough water—220,000 acre feet per year—to cause the lake to drop a foot or more. The irony? The greatest snow comes directly from evaporation of the warm lake lifting over the escarpment of the Wasatch Range. If the lake dries up . . . Ski City might become an ecological misnomer.
It’s difficult to think about economy, jobs, and pressures as we paddle through our painting. I hear a second distant shotgun blast, which sharply focuses reality. I’m grateful for the Division of Wildlife Resources Rangers. They attempt to keep the hunters and poachers away from our beloved Antelope Island State Park, the sanctuary from which we often launch our kayaks while the bison, antelope, and coyotes curiously watch us.
We’ve stopped paddling and are sliding smoothly forward, slowing. Deb has noticed a distant line of darker blue on the water’s surface, maybe a mile off. It’s the first sign of the breeze we expect to come from the North. It’s time to settle on the water for a time. Another flock of birds flies high overhead. They are not geese, but perhaps White Faced Ibis? Deb thinks they are swans and takes out her binoculars. Naturally, she is right.
I look back to Antelope Island, reflected perfectly on the lake’s surface. Another group of cormorants moves over the water, flying inches above the surface. Beyond them I catch the graceful sweep of two Great Blue Herons, gliding with seeming effortlessness. They too seem to be riding a thin cushion of air just above the surface of the water.
I close my eyes and listen to the distant grebes, the even more distant California Gulls on Egg Island. The air is pure and sweet. It’s only along the shores that one smells the chemistry of The Great Salt Lake. Once on the water, it’s as fresh as ocean breezes. This is one more of our little secrets. With my eyes closed, I taste the salt on my lips and feel the slight grittiness of salt on my paddle. When we return today I must wade in and bob like a cork for a few minutes. One can stand straight upright in the water without stroking, without sinking. My swim trunks can later stand by themselves after they dry if I forget to rinse them out.
The breeze has caught us, and tiny riffles appear around our kayaks. Without speaking, we lift our small sails and begin gliding homeward. The gifts of wildlife, solitude, and beauty rest easily in our minds. But how long can this place keep on giving in such a manner? We belong to the conservation organizations: Friends of the Great Salt Lake, Sierra Club, Utah Wilderness. We purchase a state parks pass each year. And yet it seems like we do so little amidst the pressures of industry, hunting, water, development and above all, climate change. And of course we write. At least we can say, if the day dawns with malevolent dusts sweeping a dry lake bottom, at least we can say we did something, and we did it with passion.
Please join the Weber River Partnership for Confluence 2019 - Our Annual Weber River Symposium
This is our annual opportunity to come together as stakeholders in the Weber River Watershed and discuss emerging opportunities and challenges, and to learn about successes and accomplishments within the basin during the previous year. This year our theme is "Resiliency in an Uncertain Future."We will host several sessions covering topics including resiliency of our water supplies, sustaining the watershed's agricultural resources and heritage, restoring our fisheries, and enhancing our communities. We will hear from over 20 presenters discussing topics such as agricultural sustainability, the economic value of our waterways, maintaining flows in streams during unprecedented drought, and potential changes in water policy.
If you missed any of the wonderful presentations at the Salt Lake County Watershed Symposium, they are now available online through the following link:
By Taylor Stevens, Salt Lake Tribune
Concerned about the impact a planned development in Salt Lake City’s westernmost area could have on a truck-free highway in Davis County, a group of community advocates urged the Inland Port Authority Board to support efforts to preserve the road as it is.
In a letter addressed to the board and delivered to members at their meeting on Wednesday, the group raised concerns that the planned inland port development will be used as an excuse to add trucks to Legacy Parkway — a roadway that abuts wildlife and currently has a speed of just 55 mph.
“We have little understanding of what the ultimate development plan for the proposed ‘inland port’ is, or even how all of you define ‘inland port’ — but everyone seems to agree that the Northwest Quadrant of Salt Lake City will take years to develop,” the letter says. “Let’s not use a speculative project — the inland port — as a justification to turn the Legacy Parkway into a highway.”
Members of the inland port board didn’t indicate during the meeting whether they would be supportive of truck traffic on Legacy Parkway.
The 15-year truck ban deal, initially drawn up to end lawsuits by environmental groups against the highway, will expire on Jan. 1, 2020, and the state is then free to raise the speed limit or look at widening the roadway. Lawmakers could also decide to extend the deal and preserve existing conditions.
By Robert Gehrke, Salt Lake Tribune
The notion behind the Legacy Parkway was for it to be kinder and gentler than the average highway.
That’s evident in the noise-dampening asphalt, the 55 mph speed limit, and the bike paths and bridges that run along the road. There are also no billboards. And, perhaps most notable, there is a ban on big rigs.
All of this was done to protect the wetlands and the critters that called those expanses home and to assuage the concerns of environmental groups and resolve costly and time-consuming litigation.
Over the past 15 years, it has worked out pretty well for everyone involved. Developments have cropped up along the parkway in a way you don’t really see along a typical interstate. It has been designated as a scenic byway and the wetlands have, to a large degree, been preserved.
However, the big truck ban, as my colleague Lee Davidson reported this week, will expire Jan. 1, 2020. Then what?
Well, the Utah Trucking Association wants Legacy open to tractor-trailers and contends that it was always the plan for the road to be available to them once the 15-year moratorium sunsets.
The city councils in Woods Cross and Farmington are not enthused about that concept, passing resolutions recently to extend the truck moratorium.
Sen. Todd Weiler, who represents much of that area, said he plans to sponsor legislation to extend the big-rig ban. He really only has one shot, since the upcoming session will be the last before parts of the compromise sunset.
But he anticipates there will be opposition from the trucking association. One of its leading arguments is that it would be easier and make more sense for trucks to use Legacy to get goods into and out of the inland port.
The problem is that we don’t even know what that inland port is going to look like and how much rail traffic versus truck traffic will be moving into and out of this future shipping hub. We probably won’t know those answers for a few years.
Moreover, in the past decade, thousands of Utahns have built homes and lives along the highway. Condominiums and houses were built to face the highway — and the Great Salt Lake — largely because of the parkway design.
There are grass berms instead of big, ugly concrete sound walls that we typically see along urban interstates, adding to the quasi-pastoral — as pastoral as a highway can be — qualities of Legacy.
“I think it’s an asset and amenity in their community and they shouldn’t have to give that up,” said Roger Borgenicht of Utahns for Better Transportation, an advocate for keeping Legacy as-is.
Ultimately, Legacy’s future may come down to two other Davis County legislators — incoming House Speaker Brad Wilson and Senate President-elect Stuart Adams.
By Lee Davidson, Salt Lake Tribune
Legacy Parkway in Davis County is a different sort of freeway.
It bans trucks. The speed limit is just 55 mph. Its mere two lanes in each direction have rubberized pavement to dampen sound — all designed to help adjacent wetlands and wildlife.
But that could change dramatically in a little more than a year, on Jan. 1, 2020.
That is when a 15-year deal expires, initially drawn up to end lawsuits by environmental groups against the highway. The truck ban will disappear that day, and the state is then free to raise the speed limit or look at widening the roadway.
But the Legislature could extend the deal, or parts of it, and preserve existing conditions. Some cities along the 11.5-mile route and environmental groups are pushing for the extension when the Legislature convenes next month.
Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, is drafting legislation to extend the truck ban. But he says, “I expect it will face significant opposition because of the new inland port” in northwest Salt Lake City likely creating more truck traffic and a need to handle it.