Imagine spending a weekend camping on a Utah Lake beach with your family, going boating on the lake, or hiking on miles of new trails. Imagine a clean and healthy Utah Lake. Imagine conserving billions of gallons of water each year.
Utah Lake is a vital component of our state’s water infrastructure. As the second driest and fastest-growing state in the nation, Utah is in dire need of solutions to help mitigate the effects of the worst megadrought in at least 1200 years. The Utah Lake Restoration Project would conserve tens of billions of gallons of water annually.
It’s no secret that Utah Lake is in desperate need of help. For decades, there has been a lot of talk about what could be done to ﬁx it. While a healthy Utah Lake would serve as a great beneﬁt to our state, clean-up efforts are estimated to cost billions of dollars. This has been the main obstacle to a comprehensive restoration of Utah Lake. The Utah Legislature has found that there is not a reasonable public funding source to undertake the comprehensive solutions needed to restore Utah Lake (Utah Code 65A-15-103). The Utah Lake Restoration Project has a solution to pay for the massive undertaking without increasing taxes. The cleanup effort has its own built-in funding mechanism. Community islands will include some development to fund what is otherwise too expensive to publicly fund.
Dredging will remove nutrient-polluted sediments that feed toxic algal blooms from the lakebed. It will also deepen the lake, reducing disturbance of the lakebed by wind-driven waves and facilitating the re-establishment of submerged aquatic vegetation.
Dredged material will be beneﬁcially used in containment areas that appear as islands strategically shaped and located to improve circulation and control wave action on the lake. The dredged material will be sequestered to prevent the nutrients from reentering the lake.
Constructing islands is integral to the restoration of Utah Lake. Nutrient-loaded sediment must be removed, and containment areas located in the lake are an ecologically friendly way to store and sequester the dredged material. In addition, they provide some other key beneﬁts.
Islands reduce the lake’s surface area. On a lake as big as Utah Lake even a 20% reduction of surface area results in signiﬁcant water conservation with billions of gallons saved from evaporation. The remaining 80% of the lake surface area would still be larger than Bear Lake and more than 20 times larger than reservoirs like Jordanelle and Deer Creek.
The containment areas (islands) will also be used beneﬁcially to provide signiﬁcant additional habitat for waterfowl and other birds and terrestrial wildlife. The shorelines create a suitable environment for native vegetation to grow, which will also help secure the lakebed and provide habitat for ﬁsh.
Three Types of Islands
Three types of islands will be created by the project: wildlife/estuary islands, recreation islands, and community islands.
Wildlife, or estuary islands, will protect shorelines and create healthy and ideal wildlife habitats. Creating miles of new shoreline habitat for wildlife and plants as part of these islands is a tremendous beneﬁt for a healthy and restored ecosystem. These islands also act as a barrier to wind and wave events and protect the shoreline from yearly ice ﬂoes.
Recreation islands will be open to the public and will provide protected bays, coves, and docks allowing boaters and swimmers to safely enjoy the lake. Utah residents and visitors will be able to enjoy beaches and pavilions for day use, overnight campgrounds, and miles of new hiking trails.
Community islands will house beautiful, sustainable master-planned communities that cover the cost of restoration. Through this development, the project can be completed without an increase in taxes. These islands are designed for living, working, and recreating in harmony with the surrounding ecosystem. Environmental and sustainable best practices will be applied wherever possible in the communities, with infrastructure designed to provide environmentally conscious living.
About half of the new land created will be for public uses including recreation, wildlife habitat, public access, and open space.
A History of Collaboration
COO and president of Lake Restoration Solutions, Jon Benson, explains the primary focus of the project as “a comprehensive restoration and enhancement of Utah Lake to a healthy, vibrant, usable body of water that beneﬁts Utah County and the entire state” stating that “Utah has a proud history of working together to solve problems. We embrace a diversity of opinions, and think that by careful and thoughtful collaboration, we can and will succeed with this comprehensive ecological effort, leaving a legacy that we’re proud to pass on to our grandchildren.”
The Utah Lake Restoration Project is now being reviewed by the US Army Corps of Engineers and other federal and state agencies under the National Environmental Policy Act. The plan will undergo a thorough environmental review over the next eighteen to twenty-four months.
For more details, and updates on the exciting project, visit imagineutahlake.org.