Envision Utah outlines effort to prep for growth

Published: Tuesday, March 25 2014 7:14 p.m. MDT

Before turning their attention Tuesday to preparing for the state's population to nearly double in size by 2050, members of Gov. Gary Herbert's "Your Utah, Your Future" committee indulged in a little nostalgia.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — Before turning their attention Tuesday to preparing for the state's population to nearly double in size by 2050, members of Gov. Gary Herbert's "Your Utah, Your Future" committee indulged in a little nostalgia.

A presentation by Robert Grow, president and CEO of Envision Utah, included a photo of people riding up and down four levels of escalators at the Crossroads Mall, torn down years ago to make way for City Creek Center.

Grow told the committee members gathered at the University of Utah to hear an update on the scope of the project that downtown Salt Lake City was in decline when the photo was taken more than two decades ago.

That was the same time Envision Utah began its original look at planning for growth, before light rail and a shift from large-lot subdivisions changed the face of the Wasatch Front.

Now, the group is leading the latest effort to deal with the impact the 2.5 million new Utahns expected in the state by 2050 will have on air quality, water, energy, lands, economic development, education, transportation and housing.

The focus Tuesday was on outlining those issues for the full committee. More than a fourth of the 400 community, business and political leaders participating in the year-long study attended.

"Your actions ensure a healthy and prosperous future for our state," the governor said in a taped message, noting how much has been accomplished since he announced the initiative last October.

The Clean Air Action Team has already made recommendations to Herbert in time for the just-completed 2014 Legislature, including supporting Tier 3 fuel standards and halting wood burning during winter inversions.

More work needs to be done, however, to ensure the air doesn't worsen as the state grows, said team co-chairwoman Michelle Hoffman, a pediatrician and founder of Breathe Utah.

"Those people will need to heat their homes, power their cars and work at businesses. All of those things produce emissions," Hoffman said of the increased population.

Utah is also facing a big price tag for supplying water to residents — $31 billion to repair and replace current infrastructure, as well as build new facilities over the next 50 years, the group was told.

Even if the governor's goal of reducing water consumption 25 percent by 2025 is met, Tim Hawkes of Trout Unlimited said the state will still need some 100 billion gallons of new water to keep up with growth.

That water will have to come from a combination of conservation, optimizing how water is used and development of resources. Questions yet to be answered including how water should be allocated for agriculture and business.

Other areas discussed Tuesday including the need to provide affordable housing and transportation, to increase the number of Utahns with post-high school education and plan for changing energy resources.

"These kinds of things happen about once in a generation," Grow told the audience, urging them to take advantage of the opportunity to "really change the world for good."

While Envision Utah's original planning in the 1990s involved some 20,000 Utahns, Grow said tapping the power of social media will help bring even more residents into the latest process.

Grow encouraged committee members to follow Envision Utah on Twitter and Facebook, as well as the organization's website, envisionutah.org.

He said by this time next year, the group hopes to have recommendations in all the areas being examined ready for public comment. A final report is expected at the end of 2015.

Email: lisa@deseretnews.com, Twitter: DNewsPolitics

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