Morgan resident Dawna Little Zukirmi and Crystal Young, a hydrologist from RiverRestoration.org, presented their hopes for the Weber River to the Morgan Council of Governments group on Monday.
Their presentation showed an overall vision of restoring and enhancing the Weber River just below Round Valley Golf Course, through the Como Springs area and the county fairgrounds, onto the high school and past the Riverside Park to the end of the Mickelson Mile.
They believe there is a need for a river restoration and enhancement project for a variety of reasons. From the time diversion dams were first built by our great-grandparents, native fish passage routes have been blocked. While still maintaining the water flow and water rights for irrigation, they want to open up fish passage and develop additional fish habitat.
They also want to maximize the potential of this natural resource and increase recreation and angling opportunities. They want to extend the Mickelson Mile across the river where the new Young Street Bridge may be built, through the fairgrounds and up river, giving safe passage to the bike park. This could also make room for the development of whitewater features for tubing, kayaking, rafting and stand-up paddle boarding.
Additional needs that can be addressed by this project are improved flood flow capacity, riparian corridor conservation, adjacent property protection, reduced maintenance to diversion structures, social and educational benefits and economic benefits.
Some members of the Morgan City and Morgan County councils, as well as many members of the community, have expressed great interest in this idea. Representatives from the Utah Department of Natural Resources have expressed interested in opening up fish passage at the diversion dams and developing fish habitat. They suggested contacting the organization River Restoration, which has done some initial groundwork and research on this stretch of river and worked on other successful nearby river restoration projects such as the Ogden River Restoration project.
Representatives of each of the irrigation companies that own diversion points in this stretch of the Weber River have communicated that they would be on board with the idea of changes being made to the diversion dams as long as they could be guaranteed that they would still have the water they need and have rights to. After coming to that point in the process, they then would want to have a vote from their board members. Steps will be taken in this process to ensure that the irrigation companies’ needs are accommodated and they keep their water rights and appropriation dates.
At the end of the meeting, a representative of Better City, an economic development consultant for both the city and the county, said some potential grant and funding opportunities are available to get started on the preliminary design study. From there, specific design options, costs and additional benefits to the community would be identified. Benefits to the community could include the possibility of changing the flood plain in Morgan City, which could be a great benefit to many home and business owners who are currently in the flood plain.