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Summit Councilors: Development Could Have Far-Reaching Consequences for Weber River

Courtesy Oakley City Website

Looking ahead to 2021, one of the tasks for the East Side Planning Commission will likely be studying how they can address water quality problems in the Weber River.


The topic came up in a recent joint session between the East Side Commission and the Summit County Council.


During the meeting, County Councilor Doug Clyde stressed, as he has before, that water quality in the Weber is out of compliance with federal standards. He said that the riparian areas of high groundwater around the Weber, especially in the Kamas Valley, are critical.


Later on, Councilor Chris Robinson talked to KPCW about Clyde’s concerns.


“The Kamas Valley, let’s say, is a very important aquifer,” Robinson said. “It’s got those meadows that act as a recharge area for the Weber River. And so they have special value. And he’s especially attuned to it because he does this kind of wetlands work. And so when you impose hard surfaces like pavement, concrete, and then you have contaminants like the little particles that wear off a tire, or oil and gas leaks or whatever, then you run afoul of the wetlands of this aquifer.”


Robinson said they have to find some mechanism to avoid development, although many long-time property owners see that land as their inheritance.


“The highest and best use for most of the land out there is ultimately gonna be for development unless there’s an alternative like we’ve done in the Basin, where we have BOSAC or COSAC, and where we taxed ourselves and secured open space and bought conservation easements,” Robinson said. “We as a government have done little on the East Side, other than with ESAP, which has taken some impact fees paid by Promontory and put them in a little fund, that has been used as a small match against applications by Summit Land or by Utah Open Lands or something else, to do a little preservation. We haven’t had an active role over there. And so the land owners don’t have an alternative, really.”


At the meeting, Clyde said they have to act now. Otherwise, some years off in the future, Salt Lake interests will sue them, successfully, for damaging the Wasatch Front’s water supply.


Even with entitlements, he said, the science shows the impacts of development in the Kamas Valley.


“You’re going to find that your ability to put impervious surface in there, without negatively impacting the environment severely, is very, very small,” Clyde said. “And that’s what current water science would tell us, to the extent that ultimately I think what we’re gonna find is those people’s entitlements for what they have for their single-family dwelling on one in 40 or one in 20, or whatever it happens to be—those will remain the same. But we’re going to end up putting limits on impervious surface. We’re going to end up putting performance criteria on their ability to filter their water. And the nitrates and the phosphorous has to come out, and we can’t let that flow to the river. Because that’s why we’ve got blue-green algae in the Weber.”

Known for getting all the facts right, as well as his distinctive sign-off, Rick covered Summit County meetings and issues for 35 years on KPCW. He now heads the Friday Film Review team.
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