Happy New Year, from Conserve Utah Valley. I want to start by saying thank you for supporting Conserve Utah Valley in 2021. Whether you got involved in the effort to preserve Bridal Veil Falls, participated in a Slate Canyon Saturday, or supported our efforts to protect the foothills, you made an impact.
CUV’s mission is to protect land and water forever. The most pressing water issue in Utah Valley as we enter 2022 is preventing the paving of Utah Lake. You may wonder: Is someone actually trying to pave Utah Lake?
We heard about a developer planning to construct islands across Utah Lake by dredging the entire lake bottom. And not just small islands, but islands filling in one fifth of the entire surface of the Lake. Sitting on top will be a city housing up to 500,000 people – effectively doubling the current size of Utah Valley. Connecting those islands are bridges and connecting those houses and buildings on the islands is lots and lots of asphalt.
The ambitious developer, “Lake Restoration Solutions, LLC” claims (www.saveutahlake.com) that they will transform the current “cesspool residents know today” into a “paradise for the humans around the water’s edge as well as the animal life beneath it.” Of course they will have to kill it first. The entire lake bed will be dredged up (think clear cutting forests in the 80’s) and then sterilized (think neutron blast) with the chemical rotenone to kill all 10 million fish. This will create their clean slate to construct their man made paradise.
The developer calls it the “Utah Lake Restoration Project,” however, their green washed proposal makes it clear that this is the “Utah Lake Real-estate Project.”
This plan is built on false claims and faulty science.
40 years of work from local, state, and federal restoration in Utah Lake has produced very encouraging results. Research based markers of healthy lake recovery include declining algal blooms, removal of invasive species, recovery of the endangered June Sucker fish (delisted in 2021) and healthy sediments. (get the facts here)
It was Utah House Bill 272 (link here) from the 2018 State Legislative Session that opened the door for the island project. This bill allows for the deeding of the lake bed to private developers in trade for restoration. Unfortunately, the level of restoration isn’t well defined, and there is also the issue of the constitutionality of the transfer of sovereign lands. In 2019, a Utah Supreme Court decision makes this kind of “land” transfer unconstitutional, and several years of science-based restoration work demonstrate that the lake is healing and improving nicely. It’s time to correct these problems in House Bill 272.
That is why Conserve Utah Valley decided to act. We cannot stand by and watch developers profit while putting our entire lake ecosystem at risk. We launched a petition, and formed a coalition with other conservation groups to tackle this challenge in the upcoming legislative session: dontpaveutahlake.org.
Learn the truth for yourself. Utah Lake is not a “cesspool” that needs a developer’s construction touch, it’s a beautiful lake overcoming decades of pollution and neglect. What Utah Lake needs is science-based management to complete its recovery.