ENVIRONMENT

Lake Restoration Solutions in legal battle over Utah Lake

Dec 7, 2022, 1:23 PM | Updated: 2:23 pm
lake restoration...
The Great Salt Lake has issues with algal bloom and depleting habitats and water. A study co-authored by a BYU professor says the Great Salt Lake could be gone in five years if changes aren't made. (Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)
(Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — The restoration company that wants to dredge and build islands in Utah Lake has filed an appeal after its request was shut down in October. Lake Restoration Solutions said it is fighting for another chance to build in Utah Lake. 

The company submitted a proposal to Utah officials in 2017. LRS asked the state to give it land within the lake in exchange for restoration efforts to fight algal bloom and loss of habitat. 

Part of the company’s restoration plan included building islands out of the lake bed, which is why the Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands canceled LRS’s application in October.

In its decision, the DFFS said private islands would get in the way of the public having full access to the lake.

Restoration cancelation aftermath

BYU Aquatic Ecology Professor Ben Abbott, an opponent to the proposal and who is being sued by LRS, said that with its appeal, he believes the company is putting itself in a position to sue the state.

In 2018 new legislation allowed sovereign land to be given to companies for restoration.  In this instance, ‘sovereign lands’ refers to land that, as required by the Utah Constitution, must remain in use by the public.

According to Abbot, any progress on LRS’s project after the new law in 2018 was minimal. 

It wasn’t until the summer of 2021, Abbot explained, that the project actually began moving forward. But Abbot alleged that it was being done behind “closed doors.”

Abbot claimed that LRS used a large number of state resources including a $10 million loan guarantee from state officials for fundraising, despite its alleged promise to not use public money for the project. 

“[LRS] is claiming that because the state determined that their proposal was unconditional, it has caused them to lose investors and caused the Army Corp [of Engineers] to reject their proposal,” said Abbot.

“[LRS is] accusing the state of impropriety and being capricious and completely inappropriate despite the fact that the state bent over backwards to accommodate their projects.” 

Although Lake Restoration Solutions’ Jon Benson declined an interview, the company sent a statement to KSL NewsRadio indicating it is appealing because there are still massive problems at the lake that need to be addressed.

… Lake Restoration Solutions is committed to its mission of helping to restore and rejuvenate a struggling Utah Lake to once again be a gem for all Utahns to enjoy. We are continuing our collaboration with the Division of Forestry, Fire, and State Lands to find the optimal solutions for Utah Lake that maximize the public benefits while still using private funding solutions to ensure there is not a tax increase for the restoration efforts. With the right restoration and enhancement efforts, Utah Lake would become an incredible recreation destination. Most important, enhancing Utah Lake could save billions of gallons of water annually to help ensure a future clean water supply.

Related reading: Utah Lake restoration called “unconstitutional” by state agency

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