Recently some in the news have called into question plans for restoring Utah Lake. We welcome the opportunity to provide some additional insights about the value of the Utah Lake Restoration Project to the state, its citizens and its environment.
One of the largest natural lakes in the Western United States, Utah Lake is ecologically important to the natural resource systems, wildlife and water supply of our great state. However, after decades of degradation, today nearly every important element of the lake ecosystem is broken. Instead of a clean, clear-water lake, Utah Lake is now a turbid, hyper-eutrophic lake with significantly degraded water quality.
The lake suffers from heavy phosphorus and nutrient loading, uncontrolled algal blooms and loss of habitat for native species. Many of the animal species that utilize the lake have been adversely affected by the diminished water quality, loss of native plant and animal species, algal blooms and fluctuating lake levels.
The Utah Lake Restoration Project is a comprehensive plan for restoring Utah Lake. The solutions represent more than a decade of design, modeling, engineering and planning by a team of world-class experts and infrastructure professionals. The engineering is innovative, the science is sound and the team has the combined decades of experience needed to successfully restore these native and natural systems.
Given the level of degradation to the foundational elements of the lake’s ecosystem, restoration is not possible without significant investment. Recent pilot projects funded by the state of Utah demonstrate that conservation investments work. However, a full restoration will require deepening of the lake, removal of invasive species, controlling wave action, addressing nutrient loading, restoring native fish, wildlife and plant communities in and around the lake.
Significant additional funding is needed to undertake these comprehensive solutions. The Utah Lake Restoration Project will invest approximately $6.4 billion in private dollars to accomplish these objectives.
The completed project will result in a deeper, clearer lake, dotted with islands for recreation, conservation and world-class waterfront living. Over 30 billion gallons of water conservation savings will be produced annually through reduced evaporation and 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.
A common question is whether islands created from the dredge material will be safe for development. The islands are engineered using proven technologies and best practices specifically designed to account for earthquakes and other environmental forces. The diverse sedimentation of Utah Lake, including gravels, sands, silts and clays, will be mixed using established geotechnical engineering to ensure that islands are suitable for recreation and development. The proposal for the Utah Lake Restoration Project discusses a detailed overview about how islands are engineered, created, and prepared for building.
HB 272, currently before the Utah Legislature, does not authorize our project. It puts in place a comprehensive process that establishes criteria that must be met for evaluating a comprehensive restoration project on Utah Lake. Before any work will be done in or around the lake, multiple state and federal agencies will undertake an intensive environmental review of the project, the best available science and a range of alternatives for restoring Utah Lake.
The project also contemplates millions of dollars of investment in scientific research, monitoring, modeling, and design to ensure that the best available science is working toward comprehensive lake restoration.
Utah Lake cannot recover from decades of ecological decline without intervention. The Utah Lake Restoration Project is the right solution at the right time to restore the 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 citizens.
Please see www.utahlakerestoration.com for additional information.
Ben Parker is the creator and project director of The Utah Lake Restoration Project and has managed multi-billion-dollar construction projects throughout the globe, including the Americas, Asia, Africa and the Indian Ocean regions.