VTMX – Site Survey for MAPR, Salt Lake Valley UT

Bill Brown and Steve Cohn, NCAR/ATD, 4 May 2000

1. Intro

VTMX (Vertical Transport and MiXing) is a new program of the Dept of Energy’s Environmental Meteorology Program (EMP) and is concerned with vertical transport and mixing in the boundary layer, particularly in stably stratified conditions, weak or intermittent turbulence, and morning/evening transitions. VTMX is centered primarily around urban basins or valleys and will investigate phenomena such as formation and evolution of inversions and motion of pollutants around layers trapped in valleys. The first field campaign for VTMX will be centered on the Salt Lake Valley over the month of October, 2000. Nineteen proposals were funded for this campaign and these groups will operate a range of equipment (including other wind profilers) on at least seven field sites around the Salt Lake Valley.

2. Equipment and Siting Considerations

We plan to operate the following equipment (not all necessarily at the one site):

  • MAPR (Multiple Antenna Profiler Radar, an advanced 915 MHz wind profiler)
  • RASS (with MAPR)
  • Radiosondes (either CLASS or GLASS)
  • Surface sensors (T, RH, P, wind & radiation)
  • Sodar (probably a Remtech PA1/Radian LAP500)
  • TAOS (a new blimp tether sonde being developed at NCAR/ATD)
  • High resolution lidar back scatter lidar (SABL)
  • May require a second met. station and a relay station for comms.
  • There may be small air samplers from other groups

It was decided to concentrate on the southern end of the Salt Lake Valley near the elevated gap between the Salt Lake Valley and the Utah Lake Valley where we can observe the flow between the two valleys. This region is less densely populated than the central valley, and is well away from the other (5 or so) 915 MHz wind profilers in the campaign. This area, however, is under the main flight path to Salt Lake City airport about 25 miles to the north.

The principal considerations when selecting the actual site within this region were being well away from houses (to avoid disturbing people with RASS and the sodar), away from other loud noise sources (to reduce interference for the sodar), away from clutter sources for the profiler, accessibility, and security. Two sites were identified, as well as possible secondary sites. Bill Brown and Steve Cohn conducted the site survey 10-13 April 2000, and Bill also surveyed comms link sites on April 20. Maps and photographs are available.

3. Railway Culvert Site

This is our preferred site. It is approximately 3 km SSE of Bluffdale, or about 2 km NW of the "Point of the Mountain", just east of the Jordan River. Access is along a good dirt road, gated off a minor public road.

The site is a flat area (approximately 100 m square) up a 10 m bank from the river and railway (the railway crosses the river nearby). About 100 m to the east are more embankments going up about 20 m; to the north are ridges and to the south the river. There are no houses within line of sight, although across the river there are houses about 600 m away out of sight beyond a ridge (extending about 15 m higher than our site). There are high tension power lines 900 m to the west. The surface is fairly rough, however a truck should have no problems driving around it.

Although the site is fairly sheltered near the surface, the winds in this area are often brisk, which may restrict tethersonde operations at this site. Also, we may want to place a second surface station up on a hill in order to better characterize the wind through the gap region (see section 5).

The coords are 40° 27.8’ N 111° 55.9’ W, altitude 4490 feet. The site is under class B airspace with a floor of 7000 feet (ASL); note that light aircraft may operate below this floor.

Power & Comms

The nearest power drop is about 300 m to the south where power is supplied to a flood control dam. (There is a flat area near the dam, however it was rejected as a site because there are houses in line of sight about 700 m away). Probably a generator will be used instead.

There are Quest and MCI fiber optic lines running next to the railway (about 100 m from the site) however it is doubtful connections can be made to these lines. There are also old style open line telephone/telegraph wires running next to the railway, however these seem to have fallen in to disrepair. A cell phone was found to work well on site. For data comms, it is expected that a link could be made using freewave radio modems back to the University of Utah Meteorology Dept (about 35 km NNE to the northeast hill suburbs of Salt Lake City), although a relay station will be required (see section 5).

Ownership & Access

The land is owned by Genva Rock, one of their managers, Al Schelenberg (tel 801 281 7848), granted permission to use the site. Al is based in Genva Rocksoffice off Frontage Rd (east side of Hwy 15) just north of the Point of the Mountain. The access road is controlled by Assicated Canals, Kirk Rindlisbach (100 West Jordan Narrows Road, Bluffdale UT 84065, tel 801 254 4702) has agreed to lend us a key to the gate on that road.

There is a large willow or cottonwood tree overhanging the access road, we may need to trim a branch or two to get the trailer past. There is also a small concrete bridge, however it should be able to handle a slow moving truck.


Travelling south on Highway 15, at exit 291 head west on route 140 (also known as 14600 South) towards Bluffdale. After 1.6 miles turn south on 1300 West(there is a log cabin house on the left just before the turn). Drive south for 1 mile and cross the railway tracks, then turn right (south), continue for quarter of a mile. There is a red locked gate which we should have a key for (see prev section). Continue south through gate on the dirt road for 0.45 mile, the site is just to the right of the road. It should be about 20 minutes drive from the HWY 15 exit to the site.

It takes about 45 minutes to drive from downtown Salt Lake City or the airport to the site (much longer during rush hour). Note that there is a lot of construction on the northern part of Hwy 15 (say about Hwy 215 north) and also around central Salt Lake City. From the airport, it is probably quicker to take the new (so new it’s not marked on many maps) Bangerter highway (Route 154) down to Bluffdale, then head south on route 68 to route 140, then east to 1300 West.


4. Gravel Pit Basin Site.

This is an alternative site if the Railway Culvert site is not available. It is a flat area about 200 m NS by 100 m EW with an 100 m embankment half enclosing the site from the north, round through the east, to the southern side. On the west is the Jordan river; this bank is largely unoccupied apart from the Mountain Valley Elementary school, about 700 m away and two houses 100 m behind the school. There are high tension power lines 1 km to the west.

The coords are 40° 27.1’ N 111° 55.1’ W, altitude 4460 feet. The site is under class B airspace with a floor of 9000 feet, note that light aircraft may operate below this floor.

Power & Comms.

The nearest power line is about 200 m away and appears to be a line to either a canal control gate or a pumping station. Probably we would use a generator. The nearest phone line is about 500 m up the embankment so we will need to use radio modems (via a relay station) back to the University. A cell phone was found to work at the site.

Ownership and Access.

The site is owned by Salt Lake Valley Sand & Gravel. Owner Dave Balls granted access. His office is at the pit at 16500 South 500 West (Westside Frontage Rd) just off Hwy 15 (tel 801 571 2721). Access to the site is through their pit; there is a "Salt Lake Valley Sand & Gravel" sign at the main entrance on the Frontage Rd. The main entrance is locked at night, however they can lend us a key.


The main entrance to the pit is off the Westside Frontage Road off Hwy 15 (at exit 291, drive about 2 miles south along Frontage Rd). The main gate is locked at night. Drive along past the turn off to their office, to the south-west corner of the pit. There is a dirt road that continues a few hundred metres to the site (and goes on to access canals and a pumping station).


5. Auxiliary and Alternative Sites

We will probably need to site a second met station up the side of the valley in order to better characterize surface winds through the gap region. This site will also be needed for a communications relay to the university. We also did brief surveys of a few alternative ISS sites.

5.1 Cell-phone Tower Site (Met & Comms site)

About 2½ miles south of Bluffdale on Camp Williams Road (Route 68) there are 3 cell-phone towers about ¼ mile up hill (west) from the road. Access is via a minor (dirt) public road. All 3 towers have power and small locked compounds surrounding them. The northern tower (operated by Voice Stream Wireless) has more flat ground for a met station than the other towers. There is a clear view (at ground level) of both main sites and the university. There are a couple of high voltage power lines running 20 – 30 m behind the towers.

5.2 Radio Tower and Canal Control Station (Met & Comms Site)

Westside Frontage Rd (Hwy 15), just opposite the Point of the Mountain. This site is not suitable for a profiler or sodar, however could be useful for a relay station and for surface measurements. The radio tower is marked US West New Vector Group. The Canal Control Station is run by a Provo water authority, (contact Keith Denos, tel 801 222 0710) and has better line of sight to the sites and university (although we may still need to mount the comms antenna on a high pole). There is a 6 m section tower (very similar to our met towers) but it is right next to a building (which has power and telephone). There is limited flat ground near the Canal Control Station for a met station (although there is plenty near the radio tower).

5.3 Railway Pasture Site (Alternative ISS site)

On the same road (1300 West) as the Railway culvert site, but turning north instead of south after crossing the railway, is an open pasture, surrounded by a 10 bank to the north and east, and a high railway embankment to the west. Unfortunately there are two houses 700 m to the south and a high tension power line running across the north end of the pasture. The land owner is Days Dairy Farm, Scott Day (801) 641 2423 (cell).

5.4 Housing Development Site (Alternative ISS site)

South of 12300 South (Route 71) is a new development for which the roads have been laid out but nothings has been built (as of April 2000). About ¾ mile east of Hwy 15 on 12300 So, south on Galena Park Blvd, SW on Cephus Rd. Access is easy, and there are hookups for power and phone, and there are shallow hollows in which we could operate. However the nearest houses are 800 m and the site is about 5 miles from the gap which is a bit far way from our region of interest.

Real estate signs indicate the contact is L. "Kay" Howland of Eagle Pointe Reality & Management (801) 259 7135.

5.5 Bangerter Hwy Pasture Site (Alternative ISS site)

North of 14600 South (route 140) across the road from the turnoff to the Railway culvert site (ie, 1300 West) is some pasture. The new Bangerter highway (Hwy 154) is just to the north which could be a significant clutter source, as could the many trees nearby. Also there are several houses about 800 m away from possible sites (and one closer but it may be possible to shield that one with a low ridge) and another being built nearby. There is a gravel pit and an old railway grade so access should be okay.


6. Nearby towns and facilities

On the east side of the valley are Draper, Sandy, and Midvale to the north, and Lehi to the south (beyond the gap). Sandy seems to be the most useful in terms of hotels, stores, and restaurants. The Utah State Prison is also nearby on this side(!). On the west side of the valley is the small town of Bluffdale, Riverton, and Camp Williams.


About 8 or 9 miles (NE) from both sites. Many stores, hotels, & restaurants. Around exit 297 (10600 So) on the east side are Quality Inn, Residence Inn, Courtyard By Marriott, Best Western, Hampton Inn as well as a couple of malls (Wal-Mart, Target, JC Penny, Dillards, Barnes & Noble, etc), restaurants, fast-food, banks, Costco, and Eagle Hardware (W 9000 So, exit 298). On the west side of Hwy 15 (exit 297) are Country Inn, Sleep Inn, Motel 8, and Dennys.


About 7 miles (NE) from both sites. East from exit 294 (12300 So, Route 71) are hotels such as Travelodge, Holiday Inn Express, Ramada Limited and RV Park. Stores include Anderson Lumber, a strip mall, Texaco, Factory Stores of America, Ruby Tuesday and a copy/business center. Fast-food includes Macdonalds, KFC, Arbys, Quizmos, & Arctic Circle. There isn’t much further south (exits 291 & 292) although the bluff where the hang & para gliders take off has a great view (access via Highland Dr, Hwy 15 exit 291).

Camp Williams, Army National Guard

Camp Williams is 2 miles south of the Railway culvert site and a mile SW of the Gravel Pit Basin site. Both sites are close to the flight path for an airstrip at the camp, although this strip is rarely used. However there are regular helicopter flights to the camp, and these flights often travel near our sites. Capt. "D" Simondi is responsible for Flight Operations and we talked to her about the project (and will also send her an informational letter). We also talked to Maj. Robert Dunton (Environmental Officer) who will be supplying historical weather data from 3 stations at the camp. Capt. Simondi may also be able to help with access to the Railway culvert site as the camp apparently draws water from the river there (may need to verify this). Camp Williams command tel (801) 253 5403.


The nearest town to the Railway culvert site (about 3 miles by road). The only shops are a service station (with shop) and Randy’s Tire & Muffler (the proprietor, Randy Perry, owns much land across the river from our site). The Bluffdale city office is at 14175 South Redwood Rd (Route 68); the engineer there, Shane Jones (tel 801 – 254 2200) was very helpful in determining land ownership and access. Both sites are in the Bluffdale city territory.


About 5 miles from the Railway culvert site (2 miles north of Bluffdale). Riverton Hardware on route 68 (eastside, south of 12600 So). Two strip malls (route 68 & 12600 So) with Albertsons, service stations, Chinese restaurant (steak & potatoes as well as Chinese!), Pizza, and fast food such as KFC, Tacobell, Burger King, Subway, etc.


8. University of Utah

The University of Utah is in the northeast hill suburbs, east of downtown Salt Lake City, about 35 km NNE of our sites. The main offices of the Department of Meteorology are on the 8th floor of the William Browning (WBB) building and have a clear view down the whole Salt Lake valley. We will be able to put a computer (e.g., a Sun) connected to the internet in a room on the west side of the building, and put a comms antenna on a met tower on the roof. The department may also host a central manned site and regular project meetings. John Horrel is the contact (tel 801 581 7091), although his office is in the Intermountain Network Scientific (INSCC) building (4th floor) just opposite the Browning building. Drive up (i.e., east) 100 South Street (1st South), past University and Wolcott/1455 East, turn right (south) down the first access road. The Browning building is the second on the left (just before the visitors’ car park) and the INSCC is the second on the right. From our sites the drive is about 45 minutes (use Hwy 215 and route 186). The University Guest House (very comfortable with discount rates for the project) is further up the hill and members of other groups may be staying there.


9. Useful Contacts

  • John Horel, Prof., Dept of Meteorology, Uni of Utah (801) 581 7091. Local VTMX coordinator.
  • Al Schelenberg, Geneva Rock Products,(801) 281 7848. Owns Railway culvert site land.
  • Kirk Rindlisbach, Associated Canals (801) 254 4702, controls gate & access road to Railway culvert site.
  • Shane Jones, Bluffdale city engineer, (801) 254 2200 (useful local knowledge)
  • Dave Balls, Slat Lake Valley Sand & Gravel (801) 571 2721. Owns Gravel Pit Basin site.
  • Jeff Bryant, Jordan (Narrows) Pumping station (801) 254 7904
  • Capt. "D" Simondi & Maj. Robert Dunton, Camp Williams (801) 253 5403
  • Pam Sheeler, FAA, Traffic Control (801) 325 9632
  • Chris Doran, PNNL, DOE, (509) 372-6149, VTMX leader