Utah Lake restoration application canceled by Division of Forestry

Oct 27, 2022, 3:05 PM | Updated: Feb 23, 2023, 1:14 pm
Utah lake restoration...
Lincoln Beach and Utah Lake can be seen in the distance in Spanish Fork on Monday, Aug. 22, 2022. (Ben B. Braun/Deseret News)
(Ben B. Braun/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — A proposal by a private development firm to restore and add to Utah Lake has been canceled by the Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands.

The DFFSL said it has issued a Record of Decision and notified Lake Restoration Solutions, Inc., — the private company that submitted the application — of its decision.

On Thursday afternoon, division spokesman Karl Hunt went into further details about its decision.

“The water needs to remain navigable,” division spokesman Karl Hunt told KSL NewsRadio. “It needs to be able to protect natural fish and wildlife habitat, and it has to help with public health. Those are just a few of the constitutional issues that were raised [after] looking at their proposal.”

Other reasons include the movement of land that would impact travel and the transfer of sovereign lands to private parties.

“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,” said DFFSL.

In this instance, ‘sovereign lands’ refers to land that, as required by the Utah Constitution, must remain in use by the public. The Utah State Legislature defines sovereign lands as “those lands lying below the ordinary high water mark of navigable bodies of water at the date of statehood and owned by the state by virtue of its sovereignty.”

Lake Restoration Solutions responds

On Thursday afternoon, Lake Restoration Solutions responded to the decision by the Division of Forestry, Fire, and State Lands by saying that the division’s decision has given the company “greater clarity on the path forward.”

“Our team has been made aware of some technical concerns regarding our 2017 application,” said Johnathan Benson, LRS president and chief operating officer.

“We have been engaging with the Division to address the specific concerns shared. This record of decision gives us greater clarity on the path forward. We remain committed to our mission of helping to restore a healthy Utah Lake that could become an incredible recreation destination for all Utahns to enjoy while ensuring a future clean water supply and creating thousands of local jobs.”

What happens next?

The DFFSL said its decision is “the final step with regard to the current LRS proposal.” LRS submitted a plan to dredge Utah Lake and build several islands for commercial use.

However, the Record of Decision doesn’t mean that LRS can’t apply again in the future.

“The issue around Utah Lake is very complex,” Hunt said. “It’s similar to the Great Salt Lake, where it’s such a big issue and there’s multiple agencies that are involved and a lot of interested parties.

“And so applications can be submitted to the Division, to help out. LRS is more than able to reapply as well.”

And Hunt said there are other proposals still under consideration.

“There are a lot of people working hard on Utah Lake, and it goes unnoticed. The public needs to be aware of the work that’s going on to improve water quality, to improve habitat, to improve the entire ecology of the lake.”

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Utah Lake restoration application canceled by Division of Forestry