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Utah Lake's future the focus of summit

Posted at 2:40 PM, Jan 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-10 18:42:38-05

LINDON, Utah — The health and future of Utah Lake is the focus of a summit, bringing scientists and policy makers together.

"Let’s make sure we’re scientific, data-based and have factual answers so we can then look at the policy we want to proceed with," said Rep. Keven Stratton, R-Orem, who is hosting the summit on Tuesday night at Utah Valley University.

Utah Lake has faced challenges with pollution, dumping, harmful algal blooms, invasive species and carp infestations. But one group said its health has certainly improved recently.

"The lake is on the mend. It still has a ways to go, but good things are already happening," said Craig Christensen, the director of Conserve Utah Valley.

One idea that is getting a lot of attention to repair the lake is a massive dredging project that would ultimately create islands in the middle of it that could be developed with housing and buildings. Lake Restoration Solutions recently filed an application with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to begin the process to make it happen.

"This represents an investment of billions of dollars in improving and restoring Utah Lake," the company's president, Jon Benson, said in an interview with FOX 13 on Monday. "Yeah, it’s a big effort."

While once a fantastical idea, the concept of islands on Utah Lake appears to be moving forward with the beginning of the environmental process. Benson said it was a way to deal with the material dredged from the lake.

"It actually started with how do we dredge, and what do we do with that material? And people want to call them islands, they’re dredge containment areas," he said, adding that beneficial re-use is the goal.

But the idea of islands on the lake have created concerns among a number of people. A lengthy list of scientists, natural resource advocates and others penned an open letter raising a number of issues with the concept and legislation passed in recent years allowing for the project to potentially happen.

"I don’t think I’d put houses in the middle of the lake any more than I’d put houses on the top of Timp," Christensen said, referring to Mt. Timpanogos, which overlooks Utah Lake. "They’re landmarks. They’re beautiful the way they are."

Benson said it would likely be a couple of years before the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers rendered a decision on the project's path forward.

"They will take this now through an expensive and thorough vetting," he said.

Christensen said he wants to see a more open and transparent process surrounding the entire process. Rep. Stratton said that's one of the things he is looking to accomplish with his summit and potential legislation this year.

"What I agree with is the vetting and the asking of questions and then, in a respectful, civil manner, get to the bottom and make sure we have good information," he said.

The Utah Lake Summit follows one recently hosted by House Speaker Brad Wilson on the Great Salt Lake, which has dropped to historic lows.

Information on the Utah Lake Summit can be found here, which starts at 6:30pm on Jan. 11.