Water Documenters: Read meeting notes from the Wasatch Front Water Quality Council

The Dec. 5, 2023 event covered the nutrient report from Farmington Bay and Provo Bay, as well as an update on the Great Salt Lake Basin Integrated Plan.


Lead Project Manager and Research Scientist Theron Miller arrived shortly, as well as the rest of the the attendees which did include:

Rich Mickelsen (of the Timpanogos Special Service District)

Melissa R. (of Holland & Hart)

Jeff Den Bleyker (of Jacobs)

Various members of the council which included Phil Heck, Brandon Heidelberger, Matt Myers, Lanese Hendricksen, Joel Thompson, Ken Brand, Terrence Price, Lee Rawlings, David Torgerson, Shellie Turnbow, David Hatch

Plus a handful of unnamed attendees via Zoom

Community Perspective

In this public meeting, there were mostly members/those affiliated with the council present. In the Zoom call there were a few unnamed/unmentioned attendees, who were not called upon to speak directly, nor did they decide to chime in at any time.

The role of the council is to benefit public water quality or as David Richards would like to put it, “otherwise we’d all be dead from cholera.” Its purpose is summarized on their website, “...The ecosystem from Utah Lake to Great Salt Lake is surrounded by a large metropolitan area and receives water from many sources.  Understanding how this ecosystem functions, what water quality can be attained in the ecosystem, and [e]nsuring that the various uses can be maintained requires an understanding of past research and continuous new research to increase societ[y’s] ability to insure it is preserved…”


  • The approval of last month’s minutes (Nov. 7, 2023), Financial and Claims Review of November, Final Budget for 2024.

  • Present the latest in Jordan River Research/Consolidated Report, macroinvertebrates, nutrient fluxes/analysis.

  • Bring the Council up-to-date on current events involving in-state and national legislature.

  • Introduce and receive a hearing on the Great Salt Lake Basin Integrated Plan.

The Debate and Outcomes

Motions to approve the minutes of November 2023, the financial and claims review of November 2023, and the budget ‘final recommendation’ for 2024 were all brought forth with a unanimous vote. Leland Myers, who led the meeting, advised that although they are making the recommendation of how the money is to be spent, that they don’t actually ‘have’ the money, per se. This is because the South Davis Sewer District, which is a member entity within the council, is responsible for making the money moves.

David Richards and Theron Miller provided extensive, data-packed presentations on the Jordan River, nutrient dynamics, bug populations, and the differences/similarities of sample locations from Farmington Bay (Great Salt Lake) to Provo Bay (Utah Lake):

  • Richards observed that the downstream Jordan River faces physical impairment, especially in comparison to the upstream which he would describe is in “pretty good condition.”

  • Myers and Richards boasted that the data the council collects on nutrients is regularly used in the state’s database; Richards said, “...this is one of the best databases for nutrients on the Jordan River that there is.”

  • “Macroinvertebrates are one of the best indicators on water quality that we have, that are being used worldwide, and particularly for rivers and streams…” Richards said to begin his presentation on the importance and analysis of macroinvertebrates on water quality. He also pointed out that there isn’t a huge variety of species of bugs in the Jordan River, or at least as much as it should have. To the credit of the Jordan River’s species, resilient taxa do outnumber the non-resilient. Since the strong bugs help the fish, the Jordan River should be classified as a warm-water fishery, according to Richards. Most of this research is in association with the Salt Lake Watershed.

  • Provo Bay, with similarities to Farmington Bay, is a wetland. With the inevitable expansion of the Provo Municipal Airport, there will be negative environmental impacts on that bay area, which was explained by Miller after being prompted by a question from a member attendee on the subject. On the subject of wildlife, specifically birds, Miller said the difference between Farmington and Provo was that there were still “thousands” of birds in Provo but not in Farmington. Miller and Richards said samples in each area of invertebrate life, which provided food sources for the birds, proved Provo to be food-rich. Richards made a point about if Farmington Bay were to “ever” fill back up again, it’d be about the same size as Utah Lake itself.

  • Myers was concerned with the Utah Science Panel over their analysis, or lack there-of, between the two bays and their intricacies. He said, “...it appears that the model that they’re trying to put together is still very simplistic, not addressing the complexities that’ll exist in the ecosystem.”

At the midpoint of the meeting, just after noon, Myers called for a break for lunch, as the Council had boxed lunches provided for everyone. During the break, the Policy Advisor Melissa R. was asked to give her update on a few reports regarding the Blue Stakes Lobbyist meeting, Utah state legislative issues, other national issues, and Rich Mickelsen provided some extra dialogue and frustrations as well.

Jeff Den Bleyker from Jacobs was asked to present the Great Salt Lake Basin Integrated Plan (GSLBIP) to the council. Bleyker delivered his presentation verbally as the Zoom screen sharing functions malfunctioned at the time. “There’s a ton of work that’s going on, there’s a lot of overlap between the different efforts that we’ve found…”Bleyker said when explaining the plan, which involves not just the Jacobs group, but several others, such as The Langdon Group, Clyde Snow and Hansen, Allen & Luce. All of them are in control of developing phase one, which is the work plan, and Bleyker said, “...we need a plan for the plan…” In a nutshell, the GSLBIP is designed to “help to ensure a resilient water supply for Great Salt Lake and its watershed by:

  • Assessing current surface and groundwater supply in the Great Salt Lake Basin

  • Forecasting future water demands

  • Investigating potential benefits of forest management and watershed restoration

  • Coordinating efforts to quantify and incorporate demand into the water supply and demand model

  • Identifying and evaluating best management practices to provide a reliable water supply

  • Analyzing the trade-offs in relation to impacts on water users throughout the basin and avoiding deterioration of agriculture, industry and ecosystems,

  • By recommending actionable strategies for the holistic management of water resources

This is all highlighted through their website. The integrated plan is meant to not only help save the Great Salt Lake, but create a healthier water supply by helping the community learn how to better manage it. He made it known that they intend to have a draft report ready within three years.

There were no updates needed or given on the Utah Lake Steering Committee or other future research, for the time being. The meeting was called to adjourn at 1:26 p.m.


  • The Council’s researchers are fully invested in the Jordan River

  • The Nutrient Data that is provided and collected is state-recognized

  • Leland Myers expressed some confusion as to why the Great Salt Lake Basin Integrated Plan hasn’t involved the Council, considering most of their research and work actually overlaps

Follow Up Questions

  • Should there be concern with invertebrate populations as a food source for birds in Farmington Bay, as well as with the environmental impacts that an expansion of the Provo airport could cause to that respective bay ecosystem? If so, how much?

  • Are the minutes of the Council posted for public record, for past reference?

  • Why has the South Davis Sewer District been appointed as the bearers of the annual budget? Has this always been the case?

Water Documenters is a collaboration between The Salt Lake Tribune and City Bureau and funded through grants from the Great Salt Lake Collaborative and the Rita Allen Foundation. College student journalists from all over Utah are hired to attend and take notes at public water meetings in Utah. These notes are then published for anyone to read or use. The project is aimed at providing better public access to meetings where major decisions are made about a limited Utah resource. For more meeting notes, click here. For more information, click here.