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Ogden looks to revitalize river

Author(s):    Christopher Smart – The Salt Lake Tribune
May 7, 2009

The Obama administration's economic-stimulus plan could provide a makeover for a section of the distressed Ogden River as it meanders through the northern Utah city that bears its name. The administration has budgeted $4 million for such "green water quality projects" in Utah. Ogden likely will face competition from other communities for the cash.

The Ogden River -- particularly in the city's urban area -- historically has not been the object of a lot of love.

But Ogden leaders have looked to the abused and once-forgotten waterway as a potential focal point of urban renewal. The grant would fund work between Washington Boulevard and the Union Pacific railway -- a 1.1-mile stretch.

Ogden is preparing a $4 million grant application that would restore the river and the environment along its banks. The funding, funneled through the state Division of Water Quality, could be awarded as soon as June. But the Utah Water Quality Board, which oversees the agency, has only $4 million to award all program applicants, according to Leah Ann Lamb, assistant director.

The division is accepting grant applications through May 28. The board will pick grant winners by mid-June.

If the Ogden project is funded, work could begin this fall be completed by March, according to consultant Jason Carey of River Restoration, Glenwood Springs, Colo.

"This is an opportunity to restore the environment and move outward," Carey said. "Before, the river was pushed into the smallest area. Now we want to expand the river [and surrounding habitats], revitalizing a wildlife corridor through the urban area."

None of the funding will go toward Ogden's long-planned Riverfront Development Project, promised Keith Morey, community-development manager.

The Riverfront Project's developer, Gadi Lesham, envisions a hotel, condos and retail shops along the banks of the river. But the development is apparently on hold. In January, Lesham filed in federal bankruptcy court for Chapter 11 protection for his California-based Cover-All Flooring Inc.

Nonetheless, Morey said, a restored river would only help move forward the city's overall goal of making the waterway and its environs attractive to developers, businesses and residents. A restored river would have access points for residents and visitors.

"It's part of Ogden's broader vision to create an outdoor experience in the city," Morey said.

(c) 2009 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Media NewsGroup, Inc. by NewsBank, Inc.