Wasatch Canyons Plan to Get an Update

Wasatch Canyons Plan to Get an Update

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Management plans for the Wasatch Canyons will be updated for the first time in two decades, largely to figure out how to accommodate increases in foot and vehicle traffic while maintaining watershed quality.

The 1983 document offered nonbinding management goals for the seven canyons along the Salt Lake Valley's east bench.

"We have a beautiful day up here, and traffic is bumper-to-bumper," said Alta Mayor Bill Levitt, co-chairman of the committee that will overhaul the 1983 Wasatch Canyons Goals and Recommendations guidelines this summer.

The panel will discuss traffic -- both foot and motorized. Realigning roadways for avalanche or flood protection in Little Cottonwood Canyon, for example, should get as much attention as dogs roaming Mill Creek, Levitt said.

With an increasing number of people heading to the hills for recreation, protecting the Salt Lake Valley's water supply is paramount, said LeRoy Hooton, Salt Lake City's longtime public works director.

"We're going to continue to grow and the pressure is going to continue to grow on these canyons," Hooton said. "It is absolutely our lifeblood."

The new plan will extend beyond watershed worries.

"Twenty-one years ago, we were not thinking seriously about wildfires," Levitt said. "We've had some very serious ones since."

In 1988, a human-caused blaze that engulfed a part of Emigration Canyon could today threaten homes. And, in October 2001, a runaway tire started a fire that burned 100 acres of brush in heavily traveled Parleys Canyon, near the popular Mountain Dell Golf Course. The fire temporarily forced residents out of their Summit Park community near Parleys Summit.

Loren Kroenke, Salt Lake District ranger for the U.S. Forest Service and a committee member, said fire-suppression plans must be updated, especially with an aging forest, six years of drought and homes creeping ever higher onto the benches.

Besides identifying at-risk areas and where to create firebreaks in the canyons, Kroenke said, evacuation plans, communication, response time and distributing emergency equipment also will be addressed.

Such measures are familiar to public safety officials, charged since before the 2002 Winter Olympics with policing the Salt Lake Valley's water sources in the name of security.

"This was not an issue before," Levitt said of potential terrorist threats. "Disaster was, but this is a new possibility."

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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