A bill to undo law regarding controversial, failed Utah Lake project advances to the full House

Feb 26, 2024, 2:00 PM

utah lake shown, a bill tackling a failed lake project has advanced...

A bird walks along the shore of Utah Lake at the Lindon Marina in Lindon on Monday, Aug. 22, 2022. (Ben B. Braun/Deseret News)

(Ben B. Braun/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — A committee of Utah lawmakers voted on Monday to pass a bill regarding a failed project to dredge and build islands on Utah Lake.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, looks to undo a law he sponsored in 2018 that helped clear the way for the project.

The previous legislation created the Utah Lake Restoration Act, which opened the door for the state to exchange public land for restoration purposes.

McKell’s new bill would repeal that law and the language in it.

“I think it’s important just to repeal that language and give Utah Lake a fresh start,” McKell told KSL NewsRadio.

“We’re going to find ways to beautify the lake, but let’s have a clean canvas as we do it.”

What was the failed Utah Lake project?

In 2017, Lake Restoration Solutions brought forth a $6-billion-plus proposal to dredge Utah Lake and use the sediment to create islands. The company said the goal was to help restore the lake, based on a previous statement.

However, their proposal got heavy pushback from many community members, conservation groups and BYU Professor Ben Abbott. Abbott called the company’s scientific basis into question.

The company later sued Abbott for defamation. Abbott countersued.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported the suit was eventually thrown out.

The Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands eventually canceled LRS’ application for the project in 2022, citing Utah’s public trust doctrine.

Under the state constitution, Utah’s public lands are managed by the state for the people in it. DFFSL said exchanging parts of the land at Utah Lake would have violated public trust.

LRS eventually sued the state over that decision, but that lawsuit never amounted to anything after the company declared bankruptcy and dissolved.

“If the goal is: how do we restore Utah Lake?… For me, I think it’s important just to repeal the language so that contention’s not lingering as we look towards the future,” McKell said.

McKell’s new bill now needs approval from the full House and the governor to take effect.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

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A bill to undo law regarding controversial, failed Utah Lake project advances to the full House