It’s a scheme right out of Utah County. In fact, it’s right out of Utah Lake.
The idea is to spend oh, say, $6 billion to $8 billion to dredge the decades of sludge from the bottom of the lake and pile it into islands upon which a sparkling new city can be built.
Not only would this grand plan correct the lake’s algal blooms, it would produce valuable property surrounded by clean water that could be home to up to a half million people in the fast-growing county.
And how are we going to come up with the billions for this? Relax. We just have to give an outfit called Lake Restoration Solutions Inc. permission to do it. They’ll make their investment back from the development.
It is an idea only a majority of state legislative committee members could love, and of course they did. Despite warnings from just about everyone inside and outside of lake management, the House Natural Resources Committee advanced House Bill 272, the Utah Lake Restoration Act, on a 5-2 vote.
The act is required because the lakebed is state sovereign land that is not easily disowned, and disowning it is required so that a developer can sell those lakefront lots.
The unanswered questions are geological, biological and just logical. Even the state’s algal bloom expert calls the plan “a bit stretched for truth.” And what does a city built on sludge in the middle of a lake do in an earthquake? Can we put lifeboats at every intersection?
And what do we tell the eight public sewage plant operators who still need a place to put their discharge? The sewage plant operators have a much more modest, sensible request: Spend more money on research. The experts say we don’t really have a handle on what it would take to clean the lake, and legislators are ready to make a deal with a developer.
An online search of business entities at the Utah Department of Corporations didn’t turn up any results for “Lake Restoration Solutions.” The results page just says the name “appears to be available.”
But, rest assured, the whole thing is very much home grown. The man touting the idea publicly is an IT consultant who says he’s modeled it with software created at Brigham Young University, his alma mater. He also says he has private investors lined up who he thinks can cover the upfront costs. He also said they may have to wait 40 years for the return.
All he needs is someone who can cough a few billion and wait four decades for a payback on what is by all measures a risky venture.
There is no one like that, but if legislators pass this bill, they can go on pretending.