August 4, 2008
S. Weber Gravel Pits May Someday Become Lakes
By Lynn Arave Deseret News
SOUTH WEBER -- Two large gravel pits in town are ever-growing icons in an otherwise bedroom community. However, that may change one day.The gravel pits have limited life spans and could one day be filled with water, making them vital to the water needs of South Weber and more than a dozen communities to the west.
"We certainly understand these gravel pits are in operation," said Matthew Dixon, South Weber city manager. "We're not trying to stop their operations prematurely."
He said the Staker-Parsons pit on the west side of U.S. 89 has about a 15-year life span left and that it could one day be filled with water.
The city has organized a reclamation committee to discuss options for that gravel pit, and hopes are high.
The Weber Basin aquifer begins near there and is essential for water not only for South Weber but for much of Weber County. However, a Weber State University study has shown the underground water storage is being depleted by about one foot per year.
A big concern is that if the level drops too much, the Great Salt Lake's briny waters could infiltrate the fresh-water delta and contaminate it.
Thus, the hope is that one or both of South Weber's gravel pits could be the key to one day recharging the underground aquifer.
Excess spring runoff water from the Weber River -- assuming water rights could be obtained -- could be pumped into the pits to help recharge the soil each year.
"There is enough floodwater in an average year" to recharge the soil, Dixon said.
The eastern Geneva pit is the ideal location because the closer to the canyon mouth, the more effective a recharge would be. However, Dixon said the Geneva pit has long-standing rights and the city has no agreement in place yet with that company. Taking a water pipeline from the western gravel pit when operations stop there to the Geneva side might also help a recharge process one day -- even if the Geneva pit continues gravel extraction.
Eventually getting support from other cities downstream would be crucial.
The Weber Basin Water Conservancy District is also interested in such a recharge of groundwater because one of the district's five missions is groundwater replacement.
Recreational opportunities for the gravel pits, if filled with water, are uncertain, given the steep slopes of the banks and the amount of water needed.
"There would be a lot to work out," Dixon said. "These are some big dreams."
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