Inaugural Conference creates dialogue about Weber River’s future
November 21, 2014
More than half a million people rely on the Weber River and as that number continues to grow throughout the next 25 years, it will only add to the challenges for water officials and those with a stake in the river’s future.
Summit County’s projected growth in population will add to those issues.
Last week, 175 people gathered at the Ben Lomond Suites Historic Hotel, in Ogden, for the inaugural Weber River Conference to explore the challenges in keeping the system in line with environmental and community needs.
"We have a limited water supply," Scott Paxman, assistant general manager of the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District, said. " 2040, we’re going to be getting to the limits of supply versus demand."
To facilitate a collaborative effort to protect the watershed, multiple stakeholders need to be involved, Paxman said.
The conference focused on setting the stage for future collaboration between the various stakeholders within the water industry, rather than discussing any specific solutions.
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"That’s really the key; there are so many different interests in the watershed and we have to get together and talk about collaboration," he said.
Summit County is within the top five percent within the state for agriculture use, not just for crops, but also for livestock. Private land owners, who hold more than 75 percent of the watershed, mainly use it for that purpose, according to Area Resources Conservationist Danny McBride.
"The watershed as a whole helps those landowners, as well as provides a habitat for wildlife," McBride said. "Agriculture is what’s holding that open space for wildlife and people enjoy that open space.
"In order to have a healthy watershed, it needs to have it," McBride said. "The take away message is, we are all in this together and we need to work together to promote a healthy watershed."
Summit County Council chairman Christopher Robinson, who presented at the conference, discussed the county’s role in protecting the watershed, most recently with ordinances to address the Uinta Express Pipeline’s placement in relation to the river.
"There are a lot of challenges to keeping this Weber Basin system," Robinson said. "But there is also a lot of hope that everyone can cooperate."
Organizers plan to hold the symposium annually for the next few years and hope more people join the conversation.
"The usages that surround water and growth and recreational opportunities, that all of us enjoy, are being taken very seriously by a lot of people," Ben Nadolski, river restoration biologist for the Division of Wildlife Resources and one of the event’s organizers, said. "Now that we’ve introduced the conversation, we know a lot of people are interested in taking part in it.
"And hopefully, we can build this partnership in a way that has durability over time," Nadolski added. "Once we achieve that durability, then we can start to implement real solutions that lead to real results."
For more information about the conference or the Weber River Partnership, log on to http://www.weberconfluence2014.eventbrite.com .
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