SALT LAKE CITY — Thirteen days into the federal government shutdown, the Salt Lake City Public Utilities Watershed Program team is taking on the additional responsibility of maintaining public restrooms throughout the Central Wasatch canyons.
Normally, employees of the Salt Lake Ranger District are tasked with maintaining the restrooms in some of the nation’s most visited canyons, including Little Cottonwood, Big Cottonwood, Parleys and City Creek.
However, those employees have been given a leave of absence while the federal government remains shut down.
In their place, rangers with the SLCPU have removed snow from walkways, cleaned and maintained toilets and restocked toilet paper in Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons.
The SLC Public Utilities Watershed Program works to maintain the Salt Lake Valley’s watershed areas. Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons alone source waters that provide up to 60 percent of the drinking water for 350,000 residents in the Salt Lake Valley, according to a press release. Public Utilities has been maintaining and protecting this water source since 1875.
In a statement, Mayor Jackie Biskupski said Salt Lake City takes the responsibility of watershed maintenance seriously.
“We will not allow gridlock in Washington to damage these pristine areas which are part of our identity as Utahns,” she said.
This is not the first time the SLC Public Utilities Watershed Program has assisted federal programs in Utah. According to a press release, in recent years they have assisted the National Forest Service in restroom upkeep and facility construction
“Our canyon watersheds run on strong partnerships with other agencies, and this is simply Public Utilities doing our part until the Forest Service and the rest of the federal government is up and running again,” said Patrick Nelson, SLC Public Utilities Watershed Program Manager.
The Department of Public Utilities shared a few photos depicting employees working to clear snow and do general upkeep in public restrooms in the canyons.