If you’ve been following the Utah Lake drama then you’ve probably heard of the Utah Lake Authority and the Utah Lake Commission but might be wondering, what’s the difference? The Utah Lake Commission recently published a podcast episode on a few differences between the two entities. To help you better understand the roles of each organization, we’ve taken the info from the podcast episode and combined it with our analysis of HB 232, the legislation that created the Utah Lake Authority to provide a synopsis of both groups.
Overall, there is a lot of overlap between the ULC and the ULA from the board composition to general responsibilities. To better understand each group, however, let’s go back to 2007 when the Utah Lake Commission was created. Through legislation, the Utah Lake Commission was organized as an independent governmental entity with the power to enter into contracts, manage the land in its jurisdiction, and receive Federal and State grants. Its power was limited as it was not given any authority to make decisions, only to create a Master Plan for Utah Lake and coordinate efforts to accomplish this plan.
Since it was created, the ULC has facilitated efforts to alleviate many of the ecological problems and set Utah Lake on a positive, restorative trajectory.
The Utah Lake Commission was also unable to raise funds on its own. Rather it was required to rely on State and Federal grants to pay for the projects it facilitated. This appeared to be adequate for most projects, but Representative Brady Brammer had bigger dreams for the lake. In 2021 he drafted a bill that would create a new governing body for Utah Lake: the Utah Lake Authority. This original bill had several concerning provisions that we at Conserve Utah Valley felt would be harmful to the lake so we initially opposed it. We reached out to Representative Brammer and were able to work with him to revise the bill to the point that we no longer opposed it. Ultimately, the Utah Lake Authority is similar to the Commission with a few important differences. The ULA will be able to raise extra money and has extra governance authority. It is still too early to see the outcomes of these abilities but we are hopeful that the board will be wise and transparent in their decisions.
The Utah Lake Authority officially organized on July 21, 2022, and has been meeting every other month since. The board is still in the process of revising the bylaws and Conserve Utah Valley is advocating for a few revisions that we believe will be critical for ensuring quality stewardship over Utah Lake. First, the creation of a citizen’s panel will allow greater public participation in the management of the lake. The lake is held under the public trust, so it makes sense to allow the public to have a voice at the table. The other addition to the bylaws addresses the gap in financial transparency. Currently, there are no protocols for independent financial reviews of ULA expenses. Because of this, the Utah Lake Authority needs to hire or contract with an independent financial reviewer so that funds can be used for effective and legitimate management and restoration of Utah Lake.
The Utah Lake Commission has continued to meet and will continue to meet every other month until May 2023. At this time the Commission will be officially dissolved and the Authority will be the only governing body for the lake.