Migratory Birds Dying at Decker Lake
For a County that Claims to Value the Environment, Decker Lake Sure Doesn’t Show It
Right now, birds at Decker Lake in Salt Lake County are dying at an alarming rate. Migratory birds depend on the West Valley City lake for food as they move along their migration routes, and current poor conditions put federally-protected shore birds at unnecessary risk. Over a dozen mallards, a great blue heron, three avocets and several dumped domestic ducks have already died.
During the hot August days, our local lakes, ponds and canals naturally suffer a drop in water quality, an increase in algae blooms, and sudden outbreaks of toxic botulism. While these are natural phenomena, they are more preventable and manageable than Salt Lake County officials would have you believe. Botulism outbreaks can be minimized by removing excess sediment from lakes, increasing water flow in hot months, adding aerators to improve water oxygenation and regularly removing garbage and debris from the water.
Signage can also discourage residents from exacerbating poor water quality by throwing bread into the lake for the birds. All of these measures have recently helped Sugarhouse Park pond recover from a botulism outbreak just last August that killed nearly 100 ducks and ducklings.
Back in the early 1990s, Decker Lake grabbed the attention of local residents, who—with the help of then Senator Jake Garn—secured $1 million in federal grant money to build Decker Lake into an educational wetlands preserve. Unfortunately, it has now fallen into disrepair through neglect and mismanagement by Salt Lake County Parks & Recreation. What was once a showcase for West Valley City is now an eyesore riddled with graffiti, garbage and dead birds.
Concerned residents who contact West Valley City are told Decker Lake is the responsibility of Salt Lake County Parks & Recreation. Parks & Rec will tell you that any birds involved are the responsibility of the Utah Department of Wildlife Resources. The Utah Department of Environmental Quality will respond and promise to test the water. But that won’t solve the problem or stop the birds from dying. For a county that claims to value the environment, Decker Lake sure doesn’t show it.
This once thriving wetland preserve has the potential to become a showcase community park again. But first and foremost, we owe it to the migrating birds and other wildlife to improve and maintain the water and ecosystem more responsibly. Salt Lake County Parks & Recreation needs to designate budget to regularly pick up the garbage, remove dead carcasses, improve water flow, increase water levels, dredge the lake sediment and more closely test and monitor the water quality—especially in warm months.
As residents and constituents of Salt Lake County, we have the power and the responsibility to ensure our past investments are properly maintained and our wildlife has safe passage on their migratory routes. Please email Salt Lake County Council member for District 3, Aimee Winder Newton, at ANewton@slco.org, and respectfully ask her to “Please prioritize the regular maintenance and improvement of Decker Lake Wetlands Preserve.” Then comment on the Salt Lake County Parks & Recreation Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/slcoparksandrec/) about the urgency of preventing more deaths of migrating birds. You can also help increase awareness and interest by posting the link to this blog post on your own social media.
Thanks for reading. The migratory birds deserve better from us. Let’s help them out.
SL County resident