When the pioneers arrived in Utah in the mid-1800s, Utah Lake was a clear-water lake with a vibrant ecosystem of freshwater vegetation, aquatic and terrestrial species, shorebirds and waterfowl. In recent years, however, the ecological impairment of Utah Lake has become a significant concern. During the summer months, water-quality degradation, including significant algal blooms and E. coli outbreaks, has led to the closure of the lake for weeks at a time. This past year, there were only between 10 to 30 boats on the lake most days, despite being easily accessible to 2 million residents along the Wasatch Front.
Factors that have negatively impacted the lake include fluctuating lake levels; loss of aquatic plant species from invasive carp; heavy phosphorus and nitrogen loading; wind and wave action; uncontrolled algal blooms; and loss of habitat to invasive plant species. Instead of a clean, clear-water lake, Utah Lake is now a turbid, hypereutrophic lake with significantly degraded water quality. This not only presents significant challenges from a water supply standpoint, but it also heavily impacts the native terrestrial and aquatic species that utilize Utah Lake. To address each of these challenges, tremendous financial and infrastructure investments will be needed.
The Utah Lake Restoration Project is a comprehensive master plan for restoring Utah Lake. It will transform the lake from an impaired, nutrient-loaded waterway, dominated by invasive species and prone to algal blooms, into a clear-water state with thousands of acres of restored native submerged plant zones, millions of June sucker, Bonneville cutthroat trout and native fish species. In short, comprehensive restoration will turn back the clock on 150 years of lake ecosystem degradation. The Utah Lake Restoration Project will bring billions of dollars of private funding to accomplish these restoration goals and is not asking for any taxpayer funds for the project, while generating tens of thousands of jobs in Utah and billions in tax revenue to the state.
The completed project will result in a deeper, clearer lake, dotted with islands for recreation, conservation and world-class, water-front living. Over 30 billion gallons of water conservation savings will be produced through reduced evaporation and by replacing thousands of acres of invasive plant species with native plants. The project will provide a vibrant crown jewel of waterfront living and outdoor recreation, adding to the already tremendous natural wonders of the state of Utah.
I have been working with the Utah Lake Restoration Project for nearly a decade and can verify the team consists of the most talented and qualified individuals to accomplish such a project. We have decades of international experience completing multibillion-dollar island creation and infrastructure projects. We have experts in engineering, construction, urban design, environmental consulting, landscape architecture and sustainable development. We understand the challenges facing Utah Lake and what is required to complete the job the right way. Many of us are native Utahns and are excited to bring our global experience back home to benefit Utah and the people we love.
The Utah Lake Restoration Project represents more than a decade of design, modeling, engineering and planning by our team. The engineering is innovative, the science is sound and the team has the right experience to ensure all the promised benefits are delivered. For the first time in Utah history, the required technology, science, vision and team are aligned to fulfill a comprehensive restoration of Utah Lake.
Considering the size, location and ecological importance of Utah Lake, the promise of comprehensive restoration is an objective worthy of monumental collaboration by the state of Utah and its residents. Utah Lake cannot recover from decades of ecological decline without intervention. The Utah Lake Restoration Project is a comprehensive master plan that pioneers the right solution at the right time to restore the lake.
Robert Scott is the director of planning and design for the Utah Lake Restoration Project and was previously the general manager of design and planning for the Palm Deira in Dubai, additionally working on The World Islands and various sustainable urban planning projects in North America, Asia, Europe and the Middle East.