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Front Page » December 2, 2008 » Opinion » Measuring Utah's progress encourages wiser choices
Published 2,129 days ago

Measuring Utah's progress encourages wiser choices


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By MIKE MOWER and ALAN MATHESON

Since the time Brigham Young first entered the Salt Lake Valley, Utah's leaders have planned for growth. Whether it was establishing well-designed communities, making the most of a limited supply of water or urging the wise use of timber and grazing resources, pioneer endeavors were done with an eye toward the future. That same spirit of planning is a part of the Baseline 2008 Report, which was recently released by Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.

Every five years the Governor's Office of Planning and Budget and Envision Utah team together on a report that looks at critical issues facing Utah. The Baseline 2008 Report highlights that while our state is pro-active in planning for growth, that focus must continue if we are to maintain Utah's unparalleled quality of life.

Despite the current national downturn, Utah's economy is projected to remain strong over the coming five decades. Job growth will be sufficient to provide for Utah's rapidly growing labor force and will attract nearly 28,000 in-migrants per year throughout the projections period.

Utah's population is projected to more than double from 2.7 million people now to 6.84 million people in 2060. That's a new person every six minutes or an annual population growth of roughly the size of Ogden.

Approximately 65 percent of that growth will be indigenous, from our own children and grandchildren. To meet that growth, we will need to build about 32,000 new households each year. Clear trends toward smaller household sizes and an aging population will drive increased demand for smaller dwellings.

At current density, nearly 900 square miles of new land would need to be developed to keep up with population projections for 2030. That rate of development would increase the amount of land developed in the state by nearly 75 percent and reduce agricultural land by 310 square miles.

Market trends suggest, however, that future development will include more infill and denser design, using existing infrastructure. Therefore, population per developed acre will increase and the rate of land consumption will decrease.

Emery County will be impacted by growth as well. The population of Emery County, currently estimated at 10,461 is expected to increase to 13,791 by the year 2060. This will have an impact on land used for agricultural purposes in Emery County. Currently, 64,007 acres are used for agriculture in Emery County. By 2030 this is expected to decrease by nearly 650 acres.

Water availability is not a constraint to growth through 2030, with the exception of Utah's Dixie, where water will be a limiting factor on growth without new sources of supply. Since 2000, per capita water use statewide has declined 12 percent. The state's goal is to reduce per capita water use by at least 25 percent between 2000 and 2050.

Concern about the drought and the "Slow the Flow" wise water use campaign have motivated conservation efforts.These efforts must expand.

The state has also made progress with air quality. Pollution per capita is on a downward trend since the early 1990s. Nevertheless, robust growth in population, the economy and vehicle miles traveled threatens to reverse the gains we've made in air quality. More stringent EPA air quality standards add to the challenge. We will need creativity and perseverance to maintain clean air for our health, enjoyment and economic development.

Under a "business as usual" scenario, greenhouse gas emissions in Utah are anticipated to grow by more than 70 perecent by 2030. This trend could be markedly influenced over the forecast period by a variety of factors including, but not limited to, changes in market conditions, advanced technology development and deployment, diversification of Utah's energy resource mix to include a greater proportion of renewable and other low-carbon energy sources, and public policies.

In this just past political season, many speak of our differences. The impact of growth, however, crosses political lines and jurisdictional boundaries. This baseline can help us wisely pursue policies that keep Utah beautiful, prosperous and neighborly for the next generation. By measuring our progress today, we can take more meaningful action to build a better tomorrow.

Mike Mower serves as the State Planning Coordinator in Gov. Jon Huntsman's Administration and Alan Matheson is the Envision Utah Executive Director. The Baseline Report can be found at www.planning.utah.gov or www.envisionutah.org.

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