OGDEN — Ogden’s multi-year effort to revive natural waters within the city’s borders will continue in 2021.
Next year, the city will begin a project to restore a degraded section of the Weber River, near the ongoing Trackline redevelopment area and Ogden’s kayak park, according to Ogden City Engineer Justin Anderson.
Ogden’s storm water drains into both the Weber and Ogden rivers, and Anderson said years of degradation have left some river banks eroded and void of natural vegetation.
According to an Ogden City Council document on the proposed project, poor methods were used in years past to stabilize and control flooding, which not only contributed to the degradation of natural environments, but also has made banks susceptible to future flooding and failure. Many places of storm water discharge, especially along the Weber River, have been failing due to changes in the waterway’s natural structure.
Next year’s restoration is just the latest in a handful of projects meant to improve the quality and access on heavily used sections of the two rivers as they run through Junction City.
In 2012, the city finished a two-year, $6 million restoration of the Ogden River through downtown. That project featured new pavement on the Ogden River Parkway trail, removing nearly 13,000 tons of garbage from the river, building interior flood planes, stabilizing the river’s banks, improving water flow, building 25 new pedestrian access points and planting vegetation to buffer pollution sources, reduce channel temperatures and provide aquatic food sources for fish.
In 2011, while the restoration was underway, the section of the Ogden River successfully withstood what City Council documents called a “100-year flood event.” During that year, 18 counties across Utah reported flood damage totaling $12.7 million as a heavy snowpack, a rapid melt and rain caused flooding in many rivers. The upper branches of the Ogden River and the lower Weber River were among the hardest-hit areas.
The Weber River project, though not as large in scope, is similar to the Ogden River restoration in design and construction, according to council documents. The city will build “cross veins” — which are “U”-shaped structures made of boulders or logs, built across the river to concentrate stream flow in the center, reducing bank erosion — and plant new vegetation.
Justin Sorensen, an analyst in the city’s finance department, said the city received about $347,000 in state and federal grants for the restoration. The city will contribute approximately $243,000 in matching funds to complete the project.
Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell said the ongoing and continuous river work has been a major focus of his administration.
“When you look at that section of the Ogden River, before it was restored, that was a place people wanted to avoid,” Caldwell said. “It was definitely not the gathering place it is now. I think it’s absolutely critical that we protect the natural environments we have here in the urban core of the city. That’s part of what makes us unique as a city and it’s been a focus of ours for several years now.”
Last year, the city funded a $300,000 project to build a fish passage channel on the Weber River near 24th Street and Exchange Road where an existing Central Weber sewer line prevented fish from migrating.
In 2018, the city began an approximately half-million-dollar project to build a new spillway, a debris catchment basin and an earthen dam to contain water and debris near the same section of the Weber River. That project also included fixing certain features at the kayak park that were damaged over time, making improvements to the river’s habitat and fixing undertow problems.
Those river projects, along with the one that will begin next year, have been centered around the Trackline area. The redevelopment effort includes 122 acres between 24th Street and Middleton Road from the railroad tracks to G Avenue. Beginning in the 1930s, the area was home to the Ogden livestock yards and was once a thriving economic hub. When the stock yards were shut down in the 1970s, the area quickly grew dilapidated and had been mostly uninhabited until Trackline was established by City Council action in 2013.
The development includes a mix of commercial, manufacturing and light industrial space, including a 51-acre outdoor recreation business park called the Ogden Business Exchange. The park is centered around the historic Ogden Exchange building, once the administrative home of the stock yards. Today, a mix of local and international companies now do business out of the park, including breweries, bicycle companies and more.
Caldwell said the area is the archetype for the city’s vision of preserving natural environments throughout an urban center.
“You’ve got the development going on with the business park there,” he said. “But the whole area is surrounded by this natural environment, with the Weber River and some of the open-space areas. People can come into work and then go on a pretty scenic bike ride during lunch, right outside their office. That’s the kind of thing we’re striving for.”