Kennedy returns to Park City
December 7, 2007
Water from Park City’s mountaintops flows into East Canyon Creek, then East Canyon Reservoir and the Weber River that drains into the Great Salt Lake. Water, it seems, gives credence to the adage, "no man is an island" water connects communities and species, fauna and flora.
But if water is such a basic, fundamental resource, and one that unites all things living, why then is it so hard to protect?
This weekend for the second year in a row, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. will host Deer Valley’s Celebrity Skifest in support of the Waterkeeper Alliance, a grassroots advocacy organization he founded in 1999 to protect water bodies from pollution. Kennedy, who says he has skied at the resort since it opened two decades ago, will bring along Alliance supporters from the entertainment industry such as comedians Larry David and Julia Louis-Dreyfus to bring more visibility to his cause. Before Kennedy’s speech at the Eccles Center Sunday night, a ski race pairing celebrities with Olympic legends is slated to be televised on CBS.
When speaking about the Alliance, Kennedy emphasizes the challenge of protecting water is about enforcing laws, not changing them. Laws exist that make polluting illegal, but political sway can prevent their enforcement.
"In states like Utah, often a big polluter will use political contributions to persuade government officials to overlook their environmental crimes," he told The Park Record.
President of the Alliance, Kennedy has won billion-dollar enforcement actions against the California Department of Transportation, the city of Atlanta and the city of New York. The result has been the restoration of trout in the Hudson River, a reduction in California surfers’ ear aches and cleaner drinking water for the citizens of Atlanta, Ga.
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As a local example, Kennedy points to operations like the Circle Four Farms of Milford owned by Smithfield Foods, Inc, a polluting company he says violates federal law every day, but has been able to get away with it by disabling government agencies that are supposed to be protecting the rest of us from pollution.
The Great Salt Lakekeeper monitors 35,000 square miles in Utah, Idaho, Wyoming and Nevada and is one of more than 165 local water organizations worldwide under the umbrella of the Waterkeeper Alliance.
Jeff Salt, the executive director of the Great Salt Lakekeeper, says appearances by Kennedy motivate citizens to participate in the process by underlining the importance of a clean environment in their daily lives.
"His message is really that good environmentalism is actually a fundamental component of a sound and healthy society and economy," Salt explains. "He reminds people that resources are publicly owned and should not simply be given to special interest groups who liquidate that resource and leave the community much poorer than it started."
Like Kennedy, Salt says second to educating the public about good environmental habits has been the challenge of bringing polluting companies to justice that "try to flaunt and get around the regulations and laws that protect our environment."
The Great Salt Lakekeeper’s primarily purpose is to protect rivers and tributaries eventually feed into the "terminal basin" of the Great Salt Lake. With nowhere to exit, storm water, agricultural waste and mining waste flushed into the lake builds, and the cumulative effect of the toxins can become expensive to clean up, he says.
Salt’s main concern about Wasatch Back resort towns is the proliferation of sprawl an issue that must be regularly addressed by the Snyderville Basin Reclamation District.
"Our big issue is really keeping up with the growth of people and the amount of waste we produce," agrees Mike Luers, general manager of the reclamation district. "Every few years we’ve had to expand our technology to protect the stream and our discharge into East Canyon Creek."
In 2008, Kennedy says his vote will go to Hilary Clinton who he says has the most serious plan to ween the country off foreign oil in the next 25 years.
"We have the technology and capacity to end America’s dependency on oil, to keep us out of wars in the Middle East and to create our own destiny," Kennedy says.
It’s the public’s obligation as a generation, civilization and nation to take care of the environment in order to create communities for its children and provide them with the same opportunities for prosperity and good health, argues Kennedy.
"We don’t only protect nature simply for the sake of the fishes or the birds," he says. "We protect it for our own sake because we recognize that nature is the infrastructure of our communities."
Four things you can do
Great Salt Lake Keeper’s Executive Director Jeff Salt shares four common ways individuals can eliminate common household hazardous waste from seeping into local bodies of water:
*Stop washing the car in the driveway. Salt says chemicals that drip from cars can eventually end up into the water system.
*Be frugal about fertilizing the lawn. Chemicals from lawns can flush into creeks, says Salt.
*Let a mechanic change oil, or collect and save oil for hazardous material collection at recycle centers.
*Don’t throw antifreeze into the gutter.