MORGAN — The white waters of the Weber River through Morgan County are becoming so popular with rafters, the emergency services director has organized a swift-water rescue team.
The Morgan County Council recently approved pay for the 20-member team amounting to a total of $6,000 a year to come out of the general fund.
In years past, the team has not been paid for its services.
The most popular stretch of the Weber River through the county is from Devil’s Slide to the county fairgrounds, Morgan County Emergency Services Director Terry Turner said.
According to his calculations, as many as 500 people can be found floating on the river at any given time during the height of the attraction’s season. The number has climbed to that level after continual demand in the past three years.
In that time, Turner has focused on safety, acquiring $20,000 worth of equipment and rescue training for a 10-man “hasty,” first-response, swift-water team and about eight other team members. The team members are considered part-time, as-needed employees of the county. Some are trained as EMTs, firemen, law enforcement deputies, search and rescue personnel or river guides.
Last year, the team was activated for two near-drownings, back injuries and rattlesnake bites. The team has not yet been called on for recovery services, but Turner said his team is prepared if the call comes.
“Personal safety is a huge issue here,” Turner said. “It’s going to be a bigger issue” with the growing popularity of river rafting in Morgan.
Turner said he is focusing on purchasing life jackets and throw bags for all of the county’s law enforcement deputies.
“We are putting forth a lot of money to make everyone as safe as we can,” Turner said.
County Councilman Robert Kilmer said such costs are to be expected as economic development associated with increased tourism comes into the county.