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Wetland basins near Great Salt Lake will clean stormwater, help wildlife

KAYSVILLE — The bulldozer is rumbling across the ground, scooping up huge mounds of dirt and leaving gaping holes in its wake.

It looks like a destructive mess on the west side of Kaysville on land otherwise untouched.

In reality, the heavy construction equipment is building one of three wildlife-friendly basins at the The Nature Conservancy's Great Salt Lake Shoreline Preserve. The basins will serve as shallow collectors of urban runoff that will be cleansed by emerging wetlands.

The 20-acre project, delayed because of the wet spring, includes a huge concrete box that will first act as a repository for the trash and debris that comes with urban living.

"There's oil residue, plastic, doll heads, dog feces, you name it," said Chris Christiansen, with Equinox Engineering. The basins will receive the water that remains, acting like a filter or big comb, he added.

The $280,000 project is in partnership with Kaysville city, which will enable it to remove detention basins that are mosquito magnets in the increasingly urbanized area.

"We will get cleaner water and tons of new wetland habitat," said Chris Brown, director of stewardship for The Nature Conservancy.

The 5,000-acre preserve is one of the last undeveloped chunks of land in western Davis County, serving as a buffer to the proliferation of homes and businesses increasingly dotting the landscape.

The land was purchased by the conservation organization more than a dozen years ago and serves as critical habitat for the millions of birds that make the Great Salt Lake area a resting stop in their long migration. Along with wetlands, the preserve includes upland habitat that is increasingly threatened by rampant development in western Davis County.

By adding the basins in this section, the conservancy will become a waterworks director of sort, using the levees and the ponds to direct water where it wants and attracting multiple species of birds.

"That is the beauty of wetlands. You just add water and it goes. The plants will show up and so will the birds."

The preserve includes a visitor center that opened 15 years ago and hosts hundreds of schoolchildren on tours as part of the organization's Wings and Water Program.

Earlier this year, The Nature Conservancy began construction on the first-ever fish nursery on the Colorado River to help the endangered razorback sucker's chance of survival. That project used natural channels to create safe hiding spots for the larvae.