Talks rev at river meetings

On June 27, the Utah Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands held a stakeholder meeting for those interested in their current project: developing a comprehensive management plan for the Colorado and Green rivers. People at the meeting raised concerns about conflicts between motorized and non-motorized recreation on the river, according to Laura Vernon, sovereign lands planner for FFSL.

FFSL is responsible in part for managing sovereign lands of the State of Utah. “Sovereign land consists of the beds of Utah’s navigable rivers and lakes,” says the organization’s website. “The beds of the Jordan and Bear rivers, as well as portions of the Colorado and Green rivers, are state sovereign lands. The beds of Great Salt Lake, Utah Lake and Bear Lake are all managed by the division under the ‘Public Trust’ doctrine.”

“FFSL is required to ensure that all uses on, beneath or above the bed of the Green and Colorado rivers are regulated to protect navigation, fish and wildlife habitat, aquatic beauty, public recreation and water quality. The development of the comprehensive management plans and update of the mineral leasing plan will ensure that FFSL maintains clear and consistent guidance on the management of … river resources,” states an FFSL press release.

Vernon said that the issue of user conflicts was the main point to come out of the meeting.

“You have motorized users traveling upstream and non-motorized users going downstream. There have been reports of conflicts, increasing reports of conflicts as more people are getting out to enjoy the river. [We are] looking at how we can possibly address those situations,” Vernon said.

Another issue, Vernon said, was safe access to the river.

“If boat ramps are in need of repair or if we need to relocate a boat ramp or install a new boat ramp, [we’ll take] public comment or consideration on where those new ramps should be or where they shouldn’t be … access for recreation is another issue that will be important in planning,” Vernon said.

In their Green River stakeholder meetings, Vernon said that stakeholders were more concerned with how to bring irrigation pumps into compliance with new regulations.

“We’re asking that folks who do operate agricultural pumps along the river get a permit to operate on sovereign lands. So there was just some question and concern about how to do that and bring their pumps into compliance, which we thought was really helpful for them to come to the meeting and ask those questions. Then those concerns and comments from the agricultural community were also held by folks up in Vernal, in the Uintah Basin on the Green River as well. There’s a lot of agricultural use there as well,” Vernon said.

FFSL will start drafting their plan for the two rivers over the course of the next month, Vernon said. They hope to finish the draft by spring of 2019.

ByBy Rose Egelhoff

The Times-Independent