Conserve Utah Valley held a rally on Feb. 7 at the Utah State Capitol for locals to express their concerns about new legislation affecting Utah Lake. Photo by Kate Hickman.

Conserve Utah Valley held a rally on Feb. 7 at the Utah State Capitol for locals to express their concerns about new legislation affecting Utah Lake. According to organizers, around 560 people were in attendance. 

The rally was intended to educate residents about the events surrounding Utah Lake and inspire them to contact their representatives to express their opinions and concerns. According to @conserveutahvalley, the program began with a Peyote Water Drum blessing before attendees heard from Dr. Ben Abbott, an aquatic ecologist, and an advocate for conserving Utah Lake. 

Mary Murdock Meyer, chief executive of the Timpanogos Nation, then spoke about the historical significance of Utah Lake to indigenous peoples who inhabited the area before the arrival of European settlers. “It is sacred, and it is also historic,” she stated. “This lake meant survival for our people, as well as for the pioneers when they came.”

Following Meyer’s remarks, Craig Christensen, executive director of CUV, thanked attendees for their dedication to Utah Lake. He expressed CUV’s goals relative to the Lake and implored advocates to contact their representatives. 

An objective of the rally was to draw attention to new legislation concerning Utah Lake during the 2022 General Legislative Session. According to Adam Johnson, executive assistant director of CUV and a student of law at Brigham Young University, the bills in question are commonly referred to as the “Utah Lake Authority” and “Utah Lake Amendments”: House Bill 232 and House Bill 240, respectively.

A headcount at 5:40 reported 563 people in attendance at the rally. Photo by Kate Hickman.

Several state representatives then spoke to the audience about their goals for Utah Lake: these included Rep. Nelson Abbott, R-Orem, Sen. Curtis Bramble, R-Provo and Rep. Keven Stratton, R-Orem. Reviewing the practical implications about the island proposal from Lake Restoration Solutions from a political perspective, Rep. Abbott asked, “Is it even a practical plan?” 

Rep. Abbott went on to stress the importance of finding a strategy that keeps in mind the best, long-term interests of Utah Valley locals. 

Bramble commented on the significant turnout of the rally, stating, “This is a robust debate in the public square.” He stressed the importance of these types of dialogues when it comes to legislative decisions and the influence of public comment. 

Stratton further encouraged civic engagement by noting, “If you don’t like a proposal, it is your god-given right to speak out.” He expressed a dream, looking seven generations in the future–a cultural practice of the Timpanogos Nation shared by Meyer–his posterity would experience the Lake like his ancestors did. “This is a long-term process,” stated Stratton.

Christensen concluded the rally by sharing the opportunities individuals have to take action and express their opinions about Utah Lake. Christensen suggested obtaining and displaying a “Don’t Pave Utah Lake” sign, and donating to Dr. Abbott’s legal defense fund in response to a lawsuit by LRS. Finally, he encouraged advocates to sign the petition to repeal H.B. 272, which has already exceeded 6,000 signatures. 

“If you think it’s over, we’re just getting started,” said Christensen. 

The LRS proposal has been submitted to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to review for the permitting process; the proposal is now temporarily available for public comment. They are “particularly interested in receiving comments related to the proposal’s probable impacts on the affected aquatic environment and the secondary and cumulative effects,” according to the website. 

“It’s really horrifying to see private developers use ‘restoration’ to destroy ecosystems,” said Valerie Martin, a Ph.D. student studying ecology at Utah State University. “There’s a whole field dedicated to restoration ecology, and this is not that.”

LRS was contacted to comment on the ongoing dialogue but hasn’t responded to The Review’s request. 

For more information about the history of Utah Lake and the developments that have led to the current legislation and proposal, see this article. To learn more about the island proposal, visit the LRS website. To learn more about Utah Lake advocacy, see opportunities provided by CUV.

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