It’s been a big week for Utah Lake! Three weeks ago members of CUV met with Rep. Keven Stratton with concerns about a proposal for dredging Utah Lake and creating islands for various uses including innovative housing for Utah County. At that meeting we discussed the possibility of having a Utah Lake Summit to bring various parties to this very critical discussion. We chose a date before the Utah legislative session started so we had 25 days to pull it off, with major holidays sandwiched in those days.
On January 11th, we saw the fruits of the labor of many volunteers who worked tirelessly over that short time to host the first Utah Lake Summit, sponsored by Rep. Stratton and Conserve Utah Valley. Many behind-the-scenes details were addressed and ironed out. Invitations were made through email and social media posts. More than 200 people attended the UVU-based event with more participating online. (Masks were requested at the event.)
Scientists, experts, legislators, concerned citizens, conservationists and island proposers all came together to listen and learn about the lake.
Rep. Stratton welcomed attendees and mentioned the seven generations of his family who have loved Utah Lake. He said his vision is a hope and a desire to spend time with his great grandchildren on the lake enjoying it but also to see something wonderful become something better.
He said we are all stewards and asked for civil, fruitful, respectful discussions. Many experts from diverse fields and professions had been invited and were present.
Our executive director Craig Christensen gave Rep. Stratton nearly 4,500 signatures of those who signed a petition asking for the repeal or amending of the 2018 House Bill 272 which opened the door to potential development on the lake. (Signatures are still coming in!)
Craig also mentioned his desire for transparency and a robust, enhanced dialogue. He said we want more of these kinds of events where neighbors can come and hear what is going on. He asked for mutual respect during the meeting.
Ben Abbott, an ecosystem ecologist at BYU, opened the summit with a talk that included the history, current status, recovery and future of Utah Lake. I’ve heard Dr. Abbott speak several times now and I’ve learned he is a gentle, passionate teacher. He guides and enlightens – he uses science-based information to inform and educate.
Ben asked the audience to shout out words they think of when they think of Utah Lake: The answers he got were, “beautiful, shallow, birds, sacred, carp, green, mucky bottom, identity.” Ben stopped and said that Utah Lake is at the center of our community and is such an important part of our identity.
It’s this identity that fuels my own passion for keeping Utah Lake free of island development.
Following Dr. Abbott’s presentation there were two panel sessions where participants gave information and answered questions. For the most part, it was civil and respectful.
Information came from participants and even a few audience members. There is a lot of passion for Utah Lake and hopefully this summit be the hinge point for many more thoughtful, robust discussions.
A recording of the summit can be viewed here.
A few days after the summit, the Utah Lake Commission held a meeting where Dr. Ben Abbott gave his presentation including information about amending HB 272 from 2018. He said Utah Lake is not just a Utah County issue – we need to all work together and that it’s in the state’s best interest to restore and conserve this ecosystem.
He was followed by those who are proposing island development.
Also on the agenda for the Utah Lake Commission meeting was the vote to elect a new president. Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi is now the president of the commission with Vineyard Mayor Julie Fullmer as vice president.
A resolution from the Commission was put forward regarding conservation of Utah Lake and, after some discussion, it was approved unanimously.
Utah Lake is getting the recognition and focus it deserves as more people join the conversation about what is best for the future of the lake. Conserve Utah Valley invites you to be open-minded, listen to science-based evidence and even look beyond the science. The lake is beautiful and should be preserved as a place of peace, recreation and a living environment for many species. While Utah County might be “running out of space” to house people, the middle of Utah Lake should not be up for discussion.