Constituents gather at Utah Lake Summit to evaluate conservation efforts

Experts from various fields came together for the first Utah Lake Summit to inform the community on the current situation, and discuss restoration strategies moving forward. Photo by Tyler Hacking.

Conservation efforts for Utah Lake were discussed Jan. 11 during The Utah Lake Summit, hosted by Utah Valley University.

The summit, sponsored by Conserve Utah Valley and Rep. Keven Stratton (R-H.D. 48), aimed to inform constituents on the efforts to conserve and restore Utah Lake. The value of the lake and its vital role in the community were stressed throughout the presentations and panels.

“The public is becoming more aware of the importance of [Utah Lake],” said Ben Abbott, an aquatic ecologist at Brigham Young University. Abbott’s presentation at the summit explained how thousands of years of history left residents of Utah Valley a vital resource in the form of Utah Lake, arguing that cleaning the lake is essential.

Utah Lake often makes the news for algae blooms that release neurotoxins and remove oxygen from the water–this makes it unusable for irrigation and dangerous for those seeking recreation. Utah County issues warnings when the algae reaches dangerous levels. One such warning was issued last summer due to the severe drought taking place.

Organizations like CUV, and the Timpanogos Special Service District are among many that are currently working together to find solutions that will clean the lake. TSSD is a wastewater treatment plant that treats refuse before releasing the nutrients into the lake. 

CUV is, “Committed to protecting and sustaining the treasured canyons, foothills, open spaces, and waters of Utah Valley,” as a nonprofit organization. They endeavor to, “Work collaboratively with all levels of government, the business community, and individuals to preserve spaces that add so much to our quality of life,” CUV’s website reads.

During the summit, Stratton was presented with a petition by CUV’s Executive Director Craig Christensen to prevent sale of public lands to private real estate developers outlined in House Bill 272

In an effort to restore the lake, and to limit excess nutrients that cause algae blooms, H.B. 272 allows the sale of public land under and around Utah Lake, so long as the land is used to help restore the lake. The bill reads, “The division may dispose of appropriately available state land in and around Utah Lake as compensation for the comprehensive restoration of Utah Lake under a restoration proposal.”

The Utah Lake Restoration Project from Lake Restoration Solutions, is a plan to create islands within Utah Lake. They have stated that they are transparent in their work, and that they are on “team Utah Lake.”

“There’s some time here to figure this out and get this right,” said Jon Benson, Chief Operations Officer of ULRP in an interview with the Daily Herald. “We’re team Utah Lake, and we invite you all to join that team.” For more information on the history of H.B. 272 and related proposals, see this article

The summit illuminated various initiatives to conserve, clean and restore the lake. It also saw calls to action for the preservation and future maintenance of Utah Lake, so that proceeding generations can experience its beauty.

During a panel discussion amongst several experts in science, politics and community organizing, Utah County commissioner Bill Lee stated, “I hope that gone are the days that the lake is a dumping ground.”

Stratton has said he hopes all will contribute to this effort saying, “I’m eager to have our residents understand the fine work and thought going toward making the lake what we want it to be—an asset to our quality of life for generations to come.” 

For more information about Utah Lake conservation efforts, visit CUV’s website. To learn more about what causes harmful algal blooms in Utah Lake, see the Utah Department of Environmental Quality’s information page

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