The Jordan River Commission: We Speak for the River

By Brian Tonetti, Guest Blogger

DEQ invites guest bloggers to share their thoughts on issues that impact our environment. We appreciate their insights and the opportunity to broaden the conversation with others in the community.

If you grew up along the Wasatch Front, chances are you’ve heard about the Jordan River in some way or another. It might be a firsthand experience of swooping through the air on a rope swing only to let go and splash into the sediment-laden waters. Or maybe it’s where your parents warned you not to go because “that’s where the bodies are dumped.” Either way, the Jordan River has amassed a huge reputation, both good and bad. All it takes is one Google search, “Jordan River,” and you will see what I mean.

I grew up in upstate New York, regularly exploring the stand of birch and ash trees and small, meandering streams behind my house. When I moved to Utah in 2011 to find the “world’s best snow,” I was met with an equal love of the valley that directly abuts the Wasatch Mountains. In my exploration of the mountains through hiking and backcountry skiing, my attention was also focused downward, to the ground and on to the valley. Where does all the snow and water go?

This search led me to the Jordan River.

There is a movement, made up of many passionate organizations and stakeholders, to enhance the crucial social, economic, and environmental amenities the Jordan River provides. I couldn’t help but want to join in the excitement generated around this wonderful resource in one of the most urbanized places in the country.

This movement is spearheaded by the Jordan River Commission, an organization committed to building awareness and support centered around the Jordan River corridor. We are a mixture of governmental and nongovernmental organizations, among them the Department of Environmental Quality, working together to enhance, preserve, protect, and responsibly develop the river corridor.

We are tasked with facilitating the regional vision and action plan for the river, Blueprint Jordan River. Our role as a capacity-building organization rather than an advocacy or regulatory organization lets us join the numerous municipalities and counties along the river in collaborative projects and fundraising for improvements along the river corridor. These projects range from on-the-ground-restoration areas to the annual Jordan River corridor-wide celebration of the river and all its environmental and community benefits. Through our Technical Advisory Committee, we provide expertise to our members in numerous disciplines along with resources and training opportunities for local governments and land managers.

The Jordan River Commission will be partnering with the Department of Environmental Quality on a cleanup on September 12, 2015. Volunteers will be working to clean up trash, remove invasive vegetation, and plant native habitat patches, both in the river and along the Jordan River Parkway.

Join us on Saturday, September 12th, as we work to restore the Jordan River from 500 North in Salt Lake City to the Burnham Dam in Davis County on the Lower Jordan River Restoration Project. This area provides critical habitat for a variety of wildlife and many species of migratory birds and waterfowl. Want more information about what to bring and what you’ll be doing? Check out our events page to learn more.

Brian TonettiI am the Program and Policy Planner at the Jordan River Commission, working closely with Laura Hanson, the Executive Director, in all our projects. I am also working collaboratively to create the Seven Canyons Trust, a nonprofit working to daylight the seven canyon creeks to restore the health and hydrology of the Salt Lake Valley. I graduated from the University of Utah in 2014 with two Bachelor of Science degrees, one in Environmental and Sustainability Studies and the other in Urban Planning. You can find me taking advantage of the wonderful snow we get in the Wasatch Mountains in the winter, and hiking and camping and the various other outdoor recreation activities that we all enjoy in Utah when there is no snow on the ground.