ENVIRONMENT

Bill regarding a controversial, failed Utah Lake project advances

Feb 19, 2024, 9:11 AM | Updated: 11:09 am

A photo taken on the Saratoga Springs shore of Utah Lake on August 21, 2021. State lawmakers are co...

A photo taken on the Saratoga Springs shore of Utah Lake on August 21, 2021. State lawmakers are considering a bill that seeks to improve Utah Lake and get more water into Great Salt Lake. (Mariah Maynes/KSL NewsRadio)

(Mariah Maynes/KSL NewsRadio)

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah Senate Committee unanimously supported legislation that seeks to undo a 2018 law that helped clear the way for a controversial project on Utah Lake.

In 2017, Lake Restoration Solutions submitted a proposal to dredge and build islands on Utah Lake. The goal of the project was to restore the lake, per a previous statement. 

During the 2018 General Legislative Session, then-Representative Mike McKell (R-Spanish Fork) sponsored a bill to help clear the way for the project. It was eventually signed into law. 

Six years later, McKell, who is now a Senator is pushing a new bill that would repeal the 2018 law.

“I think we need a fresh start and this is a way to do that,” Mckell told the Senate Economic Development and Workforce Services Committee on Friday.

The 2018 law created the Utah Lake Restorations Act. The act supported the idea of a private entity undertaking the restoration, namely because there wasn’t enough public funding to do it. While leaders still want to help Utah Lake, McKell said they are now going, “back to the drawing board.”

Helping Utah Lake has been a decades-long discussion. Most notably, the lake struggles with toxic algal blooms and is hampered by invasive plants and carp. 

LRS’ project got immense backlash from many in the community and scientists.

The backlash included a pair of lawsuits, one filed by BYU Ecology Professor Ben Abbott and another filed against Abbott by LRS. Abbott opposed the LRS plan and was sued by the company years after they submitted their proposal.

The Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands eventually canceled LRS’ application in 2022. LRS has since dissolved after declaring bankruptcy the following year.

The committee unanimously passed the new bill. However, it still has to clear the full Senate and House before arriving on the governor’s desk before midnight on March 1.

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