1. On a scale of 1 to 10, (with 10 representing most important) with the many city priorities you will face as mayor, where do you rank the Great Salt Lake and why?

10. The Great Salt Lake is a terminal body of water fed by three tributaries, one of which is the Weber River that runs through the heart of Ogden City. Ensuring the long-term success of the Lake should be an urgent priority for every municipality along the Wasatch Front, but should be especially prioritized with those entities responsible for these tributaries. To say that Ogden City’s long-term economic and ecological success relies heavily on the water levels and overall health of the Lake would be a gross understatement. I believe saving the Great Salt Lake is a generational investment and any and all high-level decisions made in a Knuth administration would be filtered through this priority to ensure our best possible future for the residents and visitors of Ogden City. 

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?

Mayor Mendenhall laid the policy groundwork for municipalities to donate treated storm and sewer water back to the Great Salt Lake. In 2020 alone, Ogden City was delivering ~18.4 million gallons of treated water a day, which consequently equates to ~6.8 billion gallons of wastewater a year, not including our storm refuse. A Knuth administration would donate our treated storm and sewer water back to the Great Salt Lake and more. This also includes the creation of a Sustainability Solution Center, in partnership with Weber State University. Such a center would aid in the conversion and enhancement of residential assets related to water delivery such as high-efficiency taps and toilets, as well as xeriscaping and water-tolerant lawns, services offered at low or no cost to residents. Additionally, much of Ogden water delivery systems are aged and beyond their useful life, with some elements exceeding 130 years in age. Our last bond, passed as a city and related to our infrastructure, was passed in 2008 for ~50 million dollars and accomplished a lot of capital improvement projects in our city. Within our first term, I would propose to the voters of Ogden City a municipal bond dedicated to improving city infrastructure, with a priority on our water infrastructure.

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

In my current role as Deputy Director of the Salt Lake City Arts Council, I lead our Capital City in an effort to receive $1,000,000 from Bloomberg Philanthropies, with some matching funds, to raise awareness about the importance, both economically and ecologically speaking, of the Great Salt Lake. Currently, Salt Lake City is a finalist to receive this funding. Should Salt Lake City receive these funds, a monumental public awareness campaign will be launched as soon as 2024, with public art and other creative endeavors being leveraged to maximize our impact.  Personally speaking, I have invested in the xeriscaping of our property, the conversion of our taps to high-efficiency ones, and more.

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

As recently as August of 2023, Weber County Commissioners have laid the legal foundation for a Weber County inland port, similar to that of the Salt Lake Inland port currently under construction. This project is envisioned to be more than 6,000 acres, but will like be started on a 903-acre site located directly west of Ogden City; parcels which are presently owned by a private developer out of Arizona and are adjacent to crucial ecosystems that support the lake, especially the millions of migratory birds who rely on these habitats. While I support efforts to grow and enhance the economies of Weber County, especially Ogden City, we must do so in ways which guarantee the ecological success of the Great Salt Lake. A Knuth administration would not support a Weber County inland port which compromises the long-term success of the Great Salt Lake.

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

As mentioned earlier, there are many personal decisions that can contribute to the success of the Great Salt Lake, but many Ogdenites lack sufficient resources to accomplish some of these personal decisions. A Sustainability Solutions Center would lead our residents towards accomplishing these goals. I also believe that Ogden City-owned assets can and should lead the way and set a good example for residents in how to go about these changes. A Knuth administration would commit to a phased conversion of water delivery systems within city-owned buildings that prioritize efficiency and minimize waste. We would also focus on converting underutilized greenspace to xeriscaping and utilized green space to low-wise turf or lawn. 

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

We have witnessed great success from the state on their actions to save the Great Salt Lake, including the appointment of a new Lake Coordinator, Brian Steed. A Knuth administration would engage in good faith with our partners at the county and state, as well as other municipalities, to ensure the lake’s success. I would support a state-lead effort to increase efficiencies of industries who consume high amounts of water, for example agricultural and livestock industries. I would also be supportive of a state-led effort to create new, or enhance existing, conservation areas of the Great Salt Lake and ensure new development does not further encroach on this valuable ecosystem.

7. Because treated wastewater is an important source of water to 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 Great Salt Lake?

Addressed above. 

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

The Utah Division of Water Resources estimates that the Great Salt Lake’s economic impact is in excess of $1.32 billion and accounts for over 7,706 jobs along the Wasatch Front. The well-documented scientific phenomena of the “Lake Effect” is also critical to the success of Ogden City as a tourist destination to world-class ski resorts like Snow Basin, Powder Mountain, and Nordic Valley. Not only economically would our city suffer greatly, but the dried lake bed would decimate our air as harmful toxins like arsenic are blown in the wind, which would undoubtedly result in thousands of Ogden residents leaving our city as our quality of life greatly declines.

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

As a full-time economic development professional of nearly 3 years, and an individual who has dedicated a decade long to public service, broadly speaking, I firmly believe that future development of our city can and should be sustainable. Further, sustainability for our natural ecosystems does not have to come at the expense of our built environment and vice versa. Sustainable development is development that prioritizes our limited natural resources and is realized with outcomes that are considerate of future generations of our community. As Mayor, a Knuth administration would make decisions with future generations and the preservation of their quality of life in our city and state as a priority.

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

On my mom’s side, I am a fifth-generation Utahn, on my dad’s, a second-generation Mexican-American. With the exception of a brief internship out of the state, I have always lived within a 20-minute-drive of the Lake. I have fond memories of the Great Salt Lake. One particularly striking memory is when my great grandmother came to Utah for the first time in her late 90s. One of her “bucket list items” was to visit the Lake, a request I recall being odd at the time, but now understand perfectly. During her visit, we drove out to Antelope Island, a spot I frequented growing up, especially during the annual Bison Roundup. Even today, I can remember in great detail the visual of my great grandmother standing in awe at the natural beauty of the Lake as we viewed her over a herd of bison with tears streaming down her face. A woman who had seen the world, marveled at the unique beauty of a lake I took for granted as a kid. As the Great Salt Lake was once a territory of Mexico, and the ancestral homelands of several Indigenous peoples of Utah, I also feel a generational connection to the land through my own familial lineage. 

To lose the Great Salt Lake would devastate so much of our ecosystem, my own family memories, and any future generations' ability to forge such a relationship with our environment. We must do everything in our power to preserve and protect this invaluable natural wonder.

Ogden Mayoral Candidate

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