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The Jordan River corridor gets a refresh - again

The Jordan River
Saige Miller
The new blueprint takes on water quality as a top priority. Pollutants like E. coli can be found in the Jordan River, as well as low dissolved oxygen levels, which are harmful to aquatic life.

The Jordan River is known for its many attributes.

It’s home to the Jordan River Parkway trail, the longest urban paved trail in the United States stretching over 60 miles. People paddle along the river and host gatherings in the open greenspace. The river and its surrounding areas are home to several ecosystems. Water from the Jordan River also flows directly into the Great Salt Lake wetlands.

But it wasn’t always that way. Before the Jordan River was what the public knows it as today, it was considered to be a neglected space.

In 2008, nonprofit Envision Utah, Salt Lake County and other stakeholders put together a blueprint that provided a future for the Jordan River corridor, including the trail and wildlife conservation efforts.

That plan also created the Jordan River Commission, which oversees the progress and preservation of the river.

Now, 14 years later, the commission, Envision Utah, Salt Lake County and various state agencies and stakeholders have banded together to revamp the river once again.

On Thursday, beside a section of the Jordan River Trail, as cars zoomed by and birds chirped above, the cohort unveiled a fresh image of the river’s corridor.

The Blueprint Jordan River Refresh provides a framework for the future of the natural land. The vision was influenced by a survey regarding what Utahns would like to see improved, changed or added to the public space.

“They want to preserve and enhance natural areas. They want to improve the water quality [and] expand recreation opportunities,” said the CEO of Envision Utah, Ari Bruening. “We now have this refreshed vision that sets forth the path to do that.”

One of the biggest priorities outlined in the blueprint is improving the river’s water quality. There are many pollutants in the water, including E. coli, which is impacting the Jordan River Watershed, according to Jodi Gardberg, a watershed manager with the Utah Division of Water Quality.

To improve the water quality, Gardberg said the division is working with 14 different municipalities to implement “best management practices,” like education around pet waste disposal and enhanced street sweeping so waste doesn’t end up in the river.

Bringing in stormwater can also help reduce pollutants in the Jordan River and positively impact the watershed, said Gardberg.

Rather than having stormwater from the streets directly flow into the Jordan River, Salt Lake Public Utilities and Salt Lake Public Lands have built basins to capture the water. Public Utilities then treats the water before feeding it into the river.

Additionally, the river’s low dissolved oxygen levels are harming aquatic life. Low dissolved oxygen primarily stems from excessive algae growth from nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus in the water. Warm water temperatures also contribute to low dissolved oxygen.

The division is also working to augment flows to the lower part of the Jordan River.

If successful, Gardberg said the increase in stream flow will not only improve the health of aquatic life but “will also have the added benefit of delivering more water to Great Salt Lake.”

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