Who can implement this: Federal, state, county, and city officials; governmental organizations; and advocacy organizations
Because of the amount of water some invasive species use, removing them from along Utah’s rivers and lakes could greatly improve the amount of water available for urban and rural uses.
Phragmites, for example, are one of the most common invasive species found along shorelines across Utah County. They form a harmful monoculture because of how quickly they spread and how much water they use. Phragmites are considered by Utah County to be a “noxious weed,” resilient to unfavorable conditions and natural disasters, able to outcompete and eventually eliminate native vegetation and crucially important wetlands. Phragmites also serve as untreatable breeding grounds for mosquitoes and, when dried out, become major fire hazards in both natural environments and manmade developments across Utah Lake. Perhaps most significantly, these plants consume large amounts of water. In fact, removing the phragmites along the Great Salt Lake would add the same amount of water to the lake that the construction of the Bear River Pipeline would remove.
Tamarisk (also known as saltcedar) is the other major invasive species commonly found on Utah’s shorelines. Though less common than phragmites, the tamarisk plant has salt-secreting properties that add salt to waters and soils making them infertile for native plant species, thereby reducing the quality of Utah’s shoreline habitats while also using disproportionately large amounts of water.
The tamarisk could be culled with tamarisk beetles, though the beetles are difficult to control once they have been introduced. The tamarisk plant also will die in high-shade conditions while some native plants do not, a phenomenon that Utahns could somehow use to help eliminate the plant. In Utah, controlled herbicide has been one of the most widely used methods for controlling both phragmites and tamarisk.
- Utah County lawmakers and organizations should expand efforts to remove invasive species and should strive to better understand the impacts that removal will have on the environment.
- Utah County lawmakers should explore expanding culling efforts by funding groups, bills, and departments that work to control invasive species on Utah Lake and near other key water sources for Utah County.
The Utah County Weed Control Board is responsible for enforcing the county’s weed laws, including invasive species. The board includes both lawmakers and farmers (who serve four-year terms) in order to have a balance of perspectives in their discussions. The board meets four times a year to discuss weed control laws and the challenges different weeds pose to the county’s waterways and agriculture.
The Utah Lake Commission launched a major phragmites removal effort in 2014. Its goal was to remove over 95% of phragmites along different stretches of Utah Lake’s shoreline over three years. The commission is currently in the middle of this effort and is expanding removal operations each growing season.