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Utah Lake panel sought

The commission would guide the lake’s future

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Boaters leave the harbor at Lincoln Beach Park and Marina on Utah Lake last week while others load up jet skis.

Boaters leave the harbor at Lincoln Beach Park and Marina on Utah Lake last week while others load up jet skis.

Stuart Johnson, Deseret Morning News

PROVO — Utah County leaders are getting close to taking the plunge and saying "I do" to a long-term commitment to manage Utah Lake.

Local mayors and county officials are hammering out the details of an interlocal agreement to establish a management authority that would work to utilize Utah Lake's natural resources and facilitate planning and development around the lake.

All Utah County cities and towns have been invited to join the Utah Lake Management Commission and appoint a representative with voting rights on its governing board. The cost of that participation, however, has not yet been decided.

"We kind of compare it to marriage," said Provo Mayor Lewis Billings. "We don't know what it's going to cost, but we're going to go ahead and do it and work it out."

The Utah Lake Management Commission would be an inter-local entity similar to the Bear Lake Regional Commission, which was formed in 1973 to manage multi-jurisdictional issues of Bear Lake Valley.

Like the Bear Lake authority, the Utah Lake commission likely would operate with a small staff and coordinate efforts with existing government entities.

"This proposal creates a commission that has no authority to tax anybody, to regulate anybody," Billings said.

Instead, it gives local leaders the ability to gather information, discuss alternatives "and then decide we want to do something because it's the best and right thing to do," he said.

"We're not trying to usurp anybody's local authority," Billings said. "We want to work with (federal, state and local agencies) and partner with them."

That cooperative effort would include coordinating land-use planning for property surrounding the lake and developing procedures to improve water quality.

The commission also would work to identify necessary action to restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of Utah Lake. Studies and assessments also would be conducted to assist and improve all aspects of the lake — fish and wildlife, wetlands, recreational use, access and parking, transportation and economic activities.

Utah County leaders are expected to accept the interlocal agreement at its Aug. 24 meeting and present it for a final 45-day comment period.

Billings said the goal is to have firm commitments from entities that want to enter into the agreement by the end of 2006.

"This whole effort is moving forward, and it's one that I think can be very fruitful and positive for (Utah Lake)," the Provo mayor said. "As populations grow, if we don't do something, it won't continue to be the wonderful resource that it has been."

The creation of a interlocal entity would authorize the Utah Lake commission to receive federal and state grants — something Billings says the Bear Lake Regional Commission has been successful in doing.

"(The Bear Lake authority) has been able to get fairly significant amounts of money from a number of sources," he said. "I think we're going to have to do that, too."

Though only nine of Utah County's 24 cities and towns physically border Utah Lake, many of them impact the lake and utilize its natural resources, said Payson Mayor Burtis Bills. That's why all cities and town have been invited to join the management commission.

"Utah Lake is one of the greatest resources Utah County has, and it's underutilized," Bills said. "We need to take care of it. . . . I think it's important that all (Utah County cities and towns) are involved in this."

The Utah Lake Management Commission also would include representatives from the Utah Department of Natural Resources, the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, the Central Utah Water Conservancy District and the Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District.

E-mail: jpage@desnews.com