State division pulls plug on Utah Lake Restoration Project proposal

Oct 27, 2022, 2:33 PM | Updated: Nov 18, 2022, 6:11 pm
The Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands has pulled the plug on the state's $6 billion-...
The Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands has pulled the plug on the state's $6 billion-plus plan to create human-made islands at Utah Lake.

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands has pulled the plug on the state’s $6 billion-plus plan to create human-made islands at Utah Lake.

The current application for the Utah Lake Restoration Project will be canceled, the division announced Thursday.

“Because the pending application considers the disposal of land that would impede navigation and permanently transfer sovereign lands to private parties, violating the public trust that is constitutionally imposed on these lands, the division determined that cancellation of the pending application is appropriate and required,” leaders with the division said in a statement.

The decision marks a “final step” for the current proposal, meaning the Lake Restoration Solutions, which proposed the plan, would need to reapply in the future.

The Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands said it has the authority to cancel the application if it determines it “is in the best interest of the beneficiaries” of the land in question.

In August, the Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands hinted that it could reject the proposal as director Jamie Barnes said the plan isn’t legal. Barnes said the project “presents a risk” to the state of Utah, including possible permanent loss of sovereign land.

The company’s plan called for dredging the lake, deepening it by 7 feet, on average, and using the material at the bottom of the lake to create human-made islands, some of which would be used for development, recreation and wildlife.

The Utah Legislature passed a bill in the 2022 legislative session to direct the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands to review options regarding the lake, which has suffered from low water levels and more algal blooms in recent years.

Last week during a town hall meeting with campus members at Brigham Young University, Gov. Spencer Cox said he believes that deepening parts of the lake is “important,” but he doesn’t know “if we should be building islands and houses” on it.

But he emphasized the need for general improvements, including reducing the amount of toxins that are being dumped into it — an effort he said he hopes happens, whether through the restoration project or another project.

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State division pulls plug on Utah Lake Restoration Project proposal