The Mill Creek Confluence is an eight-acre swath of public lands in the low-income, highly-diverse City of South Salt Lake. The north-side of Mill Creek is designated as a levee by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, meaning no woody vegetation is allowed to grow on the banks. The south-side is not designated as a levee. Invasive vegetation has invaded with a lack of adaptive management.
The Seven Canyons Trust, in partnership with the Jordan River Commission, South Salt Lake, and Salt Lake County, is restoring habitat value to the Mill Creek Confluence while reimagining the site’s potential. On the north-side of the site, pilot seed mixes – containing native grasses – will enhance habitat value and aesthetics. Riparian restoration of the south-side will replace invasive vegetation with native plant communities. The Mill Creek Confluence can become a community amenity, interpretative wetlands to improve water quality, and regional trailhead of the Mill Creek and Jordan River Trails.
Each day, the Central Valley Water Reclamation Facility discharges approximately 75 million gallons of wastewater into Mill Creek, just upstream from the Mill Creek Confluence. In the wastewater, high concentrations of nutrients – nitrogen and phosphorus – lead to harmful algal blooms and low dissolved oxygen. An interpretative wetland complex, fed by the wastewater, will use natural processes to retain nutrients through the roots of wetland vegetation while increasing dwindling wetland habitat.
In 2017, the Seven Canyons Trust received a $20,000 Invasive Species Management grant from the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food to begin restoration of the Mill Creek Confluence. In partnership with Mark Miller Subaru, TreeUtah, and HawkWatch International, community volunteers planted 1,500 native trees and shrubs on the south-side of the site. HawkWatch International installed an American kestrel nesting box and the Tracy Aviary is tracking breeding birds at the site to measure the impacts of restoration on bird biodiversity. Westminster College students crafted a site-specific lesson plan to engage elementary school students in environmental education and developed an adaptive management plan to guide restoration.