Developer discusses plan to revive, restore Utah Lake

Feb 3, 2022, 6:47 PM

Photo of Utah Lake [Photo Credit: Canva Images]...

Photo of Utah Lake [Photo Credit: Canva Images]

SALT LAKE CITY — An Orem company wants to revive Utah Lake, but the plan has more than 100 scientists and experts speaking out against the proposal. The company CEO discusses the latest developments in restoring the lake.

Lake Restoration Solutions (LRS) is proposing to spend $6.4 billion to dredge and create man-made islands on Utah Lake.

The project plans to dredge the floor of Utah Lake and construct, using the excavated material, several islands that will serve residential as well as recreational and conservational purposes, according to The Daily Universe. The privately funded project would deepen the lake on average by 7 feet.

Sue and countersue

LRS is suing Ben Abbott, an outspoken critic of the project and a BYU associate professor of aquatic ecology. The company is seeking at least $3 million in damages for defamation, false light and “intentional interference with prospective economic relations.”

LRS further said Abbott knowingly made false claims to sway public opinion.

Abbott’s lawyer Whitney Krogue argues the associate professor’s statements, made in various public forums, are not false and the LRS’ suit is itself an illegal “a strategic lawsuit against public participation” or SLAPP action, which should be tossed and subject to severe sanctions, according to The Salt Lake Tribune via Microsoft News.

MSN reported that Abbott has devoted much of his research to Utah Lake, the West’s third-largest freshwater lake.

“I’ve been really impressed with how brave [Abbott] has been through this, where he’s not allowed himself to be silenced by them. Most people, they get a $3 million lawsuit, and they would back down,” said Krogue.

Abbott and his attorney filed an anti-SLAPP statement and counterclaim Tuesday.

More than 100 scientists and experts speak out against proposed islands development for Utah Lake

Welcome to the show

LRS CEO Jon Benson spoke about the Utah Lake project with KSL NewsRadio’s Dave & Dujanovic.

Benson said the purpose of his company’s project is to restore Utah Lake, make the waters clean and healthy and let Utahns enjoy the lake once again.

“That sounds ambitious,” Dave said. “Utah Lake is — I’m not gonna say a total disaster — but I mean it’s pretty gross. You want to dredge it. You want to build on it. There’s so many levels to it. It seems like it would take an eternity to actually do this.”

Deseret News: Raw sewage still being dumped into Utah Lake in 1967.

“It’s a proven technology and proven remediation strategy for impaired waterways,” Benson said.

He said three types of islands will be created under the LRS proposal:

    • Wildlife islands designed to be refuges for birds and fish,
    • Recreation islands for campgrounds and
    • Community islands. “They’re there to have beautiful masterplanned, sustainable communities. It’s a way to pay for the project without having any type of new taxpayer burden,” Benson said.

“I’ve read in the news lately and been following the developments with a BYU professor who’s saying that the claims are not accurate. There’s going to be perhaps future issues if you do start dredging the lake. What is your response to people saying that this is just impossible?” Debbie asked.

Benson responded by saying that the Army Corps publicly released the application LRS send in weeks ago, which begins the environmental review process that will take up to two years to complete.

“Will this work? Will this deliver the benefits? That’s the burden upon us to prove that it’s true. And that’s the process that we need to go through,” Benson said.

Related reading: The contentious debate over the future of Utah Lake heats up as developers sue critic

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.  

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Developer discusses plan to revive, restore Utah Lake