1. On a scale of 1 to 10, with the many city priorities you will face as Mayor, where do you rank the Great Salt Lake and why?

I have been a natural resource professional and practitioner for the past 21-years, specifically in wildlife management and conservation.  I supervise operations throughout all of northern Utah, including the Great Salt Lake Ecosystem Program (GSLEP).  Our team collects and analyses various environmental data from the lake and manages the brine shrimp population and its commercial harvest, and surveys and manages waterfowl and shorebird populations and their wetland habitats.  The Great Salt Lake is THE number one priority issue in my work every day, and that will not change as Mayor. While I’d certainly have less influence over the day-to-day management of the wetlands and wildlife that inhabit the Lake, I’d also be in a unique position as a partner to every stakeholder, with real solutions to help fill the Great Salt Lake.  

As Mayor the Great Salt Lake would continue to be my number 1 environmental priority and issue, so it would remain a 10 for me. 

2. What’s your plan for assisting in saving the Great Salt Lake - what actions will you take to ensure more water makes it to the lake in the future?

Ogden City is in a unique and powerful position to help fill the Great Salt Lake.  Ogden City owns very senior and excess water rights that are intended to provide for future growth.  The more water we conserve now, the more water we can send directly to the Great Salt Lake through water leasing tools recently approved by the legislature. We have a waterline that runs from our well field, all the way down the canyon and to our delivery systems in the city.  That waterline is more than 100 years old and it leaks millions of gallons of water every day.  A catastrophic failure is imminent and dangerous for our citizens.  It’s also wasteful of precious water that could be better used to help fill the lake.  I will propose that we partner with the Utah Department of Natural Resources, the legislature and various non-profits to fund the replacement of the waterline, and use the water conserved through leakage, combined with leasing our excess water rights, to help fill the Great Salt Lake. 

3. What actions have you taken in the past to help protect the lake?

I have spent 21-years as a natural resource professional.  In that time I have partnered with countless water users, water managers, communities, non-profits and landowners on irrigation diversion optimization projects and river restoration projects that improved water quality.  Those projects saved water and we coordinated leases that sent that water to the Great Salt Lake.  I now supervise the team of professionals that continues to do that work every day.  I was also a founding member of the Weber River Partnership, which is a non-profit that coordinates watershed-scale projects and actions that conserves water and helps fill the lake.  For the past three years I have also supervised the Great Salt Lake Ecosystem Program.  

4. How do you view the inland port projects and the impact it may have on the lake?

The proposed projects are in the conceptual phases right now, so there aren’t any details to evaluate yet.  I have a deep appreciation for what the local communities are trying to accomplish economically, and I also have a deep appreciation for the lake and its natural resources.  The potential for serious impacts to the lake are very real, however.  But there may also be potential for mitigation measures to minimize or even eliminate those impacts.  I have a deep background in environmental impact analysis and now supervise the team of experts that will be formally analyzing these projects.  That work cannot begin in earnest until more details become available, but I have been involved in countless compensatory mitigation projects that have minimized and even eliminated the impacts of developments like these.  If given the chance and a seat at the table, we can evaluate the proposed projects and provide mitigation measures that will protect the lake and its natural resources.  I have done it countless times before, and I’m certain we can do it here.  

5. What do you want residents under your watch to do to help save the lake?

Residents can join me in using less water on their lawns, for starters. They can also take advantage of our conservation incentive program, which I helped draft and pass, that reimburses residents for converting their park strip from grass to appropriate drought tolerant landscapes.  They can also support my proposals to expand that program to include non-park strip sod areas.  Finally, the lake is often a distant and unrecognized issue for many.  Our residents can take the time to learn more about the lake.  When they do, I am confident they will recognize its importance to their daily lives and will be more willing to support its protection and conservation.  

6. What should the state and federal government do to help save the lake?  

The state is and should continue to be the primary management authority for the lake, with help and support from our federal partners.  The state has taken considerable steps to protect the lake and with the support of the legislature, have established a $40-million trust, invested $200-million for water conservation tools, and $70-million in agricultural optimization tools.  I support the state in its efforts to lead in these voluntary, inventive-based approaches to community conservation.  I have participated in those efforts personally and professionally, and have experienced the impacts and differences we are making in those programs.

7. Because treated wastewater is an important source of water to the Great Salt Lake, in some cases, water recycling and water conservation methods that are effective elsewhere can actually decrease the flow of water to the lake.  What initiatives do you envision for encouraging sustainable water use while also protecting the supply of water to the Great Salt Lake?  

Water that is conserved upstream in the watershed can be used to fill our storage reservoirs and aquifers. When those systems are full then the excess run-off can be diverted directly to the lake each spring. Those conservation measures also reduce the demands on those stored resources during non run-off periods, thus allowing opportunities to lease those savings for delivery directly to the lake using funds set aside by the legislature.  Over time the cumulative effects of those conservation measures can have downstream benefits that help fill the lake.  Simultaneously, the wastewater treatment plants would be forced to make millions of dollars in treatment infrastructure to recycle their wastewater for human uses. Or, they can save that money and send their treated effluent directly to the lake using the treatment systems they already have. That is what we did in partnership with the North Davis Sewer District.  In doing so, we helped fill the lake and also helped achieve water quality standards set by the Utah Division of Environmental Quality by reducing harmful algal blooms. These are win-win and voluntary and incentive-based solutions that work when we partner with one another.  

8. How would the depletion of the Great Salt Lake affect the future of your city?

A drying Great Salt Lake would be an environmental, economic and human health disaster.  The first and most immediate impact would be to our air quality.  Fugitive dust from the lake is filled with harmful toxins including arsenic, mercury and other heavy metals that can cause lung impairments.  The lake is also a globally important shorebird and waterfowl stopover that would have global ecological consequences if lost.  Finally, the resources extracted from the lake are critical for worldwide supplies.  For example, the brine shrimp industry is a multi-billion dollar global industry that provides feed for half of the world’s seafood.  The Brine Shrimp Cooperative is located in Ogden, so the economic impacts are global and local.  

9. What does sustainable development mean to you, and what do you see as your role in ensuring that future development is sustainable?

Sustainable development means building our community in a manner that meets the needs of our citizens today, but without negatively impacting the needs of our citizens in the future.  Within the context of the Great Salt Lake, we need to make sure we are developing and operating our city in a manner that conserves enough water to keep the lake filled, its lakebed inundated and its natural resources healthy and sustainable in perpetuity.  

10. What is your personal relationship/history with the Great Salt Lake?

My family and I routinely recreate in and around the lake, and I have spent my entire career in natural resource management working on issues in and around the Great Salt Lake.  I have been involved in the management of its wetlands, spent countless hours on airboats exploring and managing the lake, have trapped and banded geese, counted and surveyed shorebirds, completed aerial surveys from fixed-wing aircraft, taken legislators, dignitaries and partners on flights and airboat tours to educate them on practical policy needs, secured funding for research, management and infrastructure investments, coordinated grants and partnerships to improve lake ecology, guided key decisions regarding brine shrimp management, removed invasive phragmites to increase water supply in the lake, and coordinated water optimization projects with water managers, just to name a few. With all that I have done in my life, our work is nowhere near complete.  But with the incredible support of the public, our management agencies and the Utah Legislature, the timing is perfect for us to make positive and lasting impacts.  

Ogden Mayoral Candidate

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