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Water Quality: Partnership Seeks to Protect Weber River Watershed

By Kari Lundeen

What is the Weber River Watershed going to look like in 5, 10, or 50 years? Will we have enough water to support booming growth while still protecting and restoring water quality and fish habitat? These are the kinds of questions I wrestle with as a watershed scientist for the Weber River Basin. Fortunately, I have the privilege of working closely with local stakeholders that share these concerns and are eager to work on solutions.

A few years ago, two dedicated fisheries biologists—Paul Burnett from Trout Unlimited and Ben Nadolski from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources—approached me with a proposal to pool our resources to improve water quality and fish habitat in the river. The Weber River Partnership was born.

The Weber River Partnership includes representatives from local governments, water purveyors, utilities, conservation districts, special service districts, and other private, state, and federal entities.The Partnership has two primary goals:

1) Develop a holistic watershed plan for the Weber River Basin to:

  • Identify core values and potential threats
  • Establish conservation targets
  • Recommend strategies for addressing issues

2) Establish a committed watershed-wide organization to:

  • enhance communication
  • facilitate shared resources

The inaugural Weber River Watershed Symposium: Confluence 2014 was the first step in our strategy to improve communication among the diverse interests in the watershed. The symposium, held this month, was funded through a grant from the Willard Bay Mitigation Fund. The event drew over 160 attendees representing citizens, agriculture, industry, environmental interests, water quality, water quantity, and local governments.

Several major questions and concerns came up repeatedly during the symposium:

  • Where will we get more water as our population grows?
  • How can we work together to effectively restore and protect fish habitat? This is particularly important because we have two native fish species at risk in the watershed—the Bonneville cutthroat trout and the bluehead sucker.
  • Although we have many active leaders in the watershed, how can we develop a more structured group to implement the restoration plan?

While we didn’t reach any sweeping conclusions, we know it doesn’t end with this one symposium. Confluence will be an annual event where we can gather to discuss conservation efforts, challenges, and approaches to issues in the Weber Basin watershed. We will be developing additional planning groups to investigate the questions raised at the symposium. Although we have already documented water quality and habitat improvements, we still have a lot of work to do.

A special thanks to my colleagues on the Weber River Partnership technical team: Ben Nadolski, Paul Thompson, and Kent Sorenson at the Division of Wildlife Resources, Paul Burnett at Trout Unlimited, Jake Powell at Kamas Valley Conservation District, and Erin Bragg at Summit Land Conservancy. All images are courtesy of the Weber River Partnership.

We encourage you to join the Weber River Partnership. You can contact us at weberpartnership@gmail.com. Want to stay up-to-date on the latest news from the Partnership? Like us on Facebook—just click on the link. If you want to learn more about the restoration plan, check out the detailed information in the Weber River Watershed Plan, or if you’re more interested in an overview of our strategies and tactics to protect the watershed, take a look at the Plan’s Executive Summary.

I have been an environmental scientist with the Division of Water Weber RiverQuality for over 10 years; first in the UPDES Section as a permit writer and then in the Watershed Protection Section as the Watershed/TMDL Coordinator for the Weber River Basin. I love my job: I get to delve into all kinds of science and policy questions in addition to working with many enthusiastic stakeholders to solve water quality problems. I also serve as the Wellness Chair for the Multi-Agency Fitness Center Committee, and I chair the Great Salt Lake Resource Conservation and Development Council. I have a Bachelor of Science Degree in Geology, a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Environmental Planning from the University of Northern Iowa, and a Master of Science Degree in Geology from Idaho State University. In my spare time, I enjoy hiking, rafting, skiing, snowboarding, and exploring with my husband Zach and our six-year old son, Grayson.

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