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Man-made islands in Utah Lake? 6 things you need to know


Utah Lake is both criticized and praised. The twin personality of one of the largest freshwater lakes west of the Mississippi sets the stage for political conflict, controversy about the environment and how to best manage it not just for decades to come, but for hundreds of years.

Here are some of the top reasons Utah Lake has been a hot topic over the years and what is important to know, especially about a development proposal that is on the table.

1. The 3 man-made islands proposed for Utah Lake

A development proposal currently under review includes large plans for multiple islands to meet recreational and wildlife needs, as well as a new residential and retail community.

These islands could offer sophisticated transportation systems and a new way of life with smart homes and buried utilities. The development, according to the company, emphasizes the ecological rehabilitation of the lake and would be paid for by economic development without burdening taxpayers. That, proponents say, would make Utah Lake a world-class destination for tourists and residents alike.

Proponents envision a future for Utah County and the Lake that includes a vibrant, residential community that will help with the county’s mounting pains and fuel economic development.

A rendering provided by Lake Restoration Solutions shows his vision for a man-made island in Utah Lake and restoring the lake’s shores. Lake restoration solutions

2. Utah Lake may be shallow, but its controversy is deep

The lake is at the top of the table for many lawmakers, local governments, developers, conservationists, wastewater treatment operators, scientists, and even the office of Utah Governor Spencer Cox. The broad and diverse interests of the people who want to shape their future collide in a symphony that many would say because only a few can agree on a tax solution that does justice to all interests.

There would be a catch for the proposal of artificial islands and a housing estate to become a reality. According to a 2018 law, the state would have to give up ownership of certain properties in and around the lake, as long as certain conditions are met and the Federal Council has approved an ambitious dredging proposal to expand its development depth.

Look for further discussion about it in the months ahead, in addition to what the law has already prepared.

3. Toxic concerns about Utah Lake

Forget seagulls. Harmful algal blooms are literally the albatross around the neck of Utah Lake’s reputation and health barometer.

While some in the ecological scientific community say they are in decline and part of the lake’s delicate and false reputation, the public, political, and news media attention – as well as other scholars – draw a different story.

The flowers, reinforced by this drought, appear in stagnant water, which is heated by hot weather and excess nutrients of phosphorus and nitrogen. They have bloomed in many Utah bodies of water over the years, but the Utah Lake issue has drawn special attention due to bank-to-bank public health warnings warning people to avoid the lake.

A study shows that the severity of blooms with extremely high levels of toxins is once again focusing on solving the problem, including new controls for sewage treatment plants discharging into the lake.

4. Go fishing? The one who almost escaped

Successful restoration efforts are part of Utah Lake’s history, including the federal government’s recent categorization of how endangered the sucker fish remains in June.

The June sucker is endemic to Utah Lake. While it was once considered “endangered” it has now been downgraded to threatened.

The species was thought to be abundant in the early 1800s. The US Fish and Wildlife Service said the first dramatic decline in population occurred in the late 1960s when 2 miles of the Provo River drained and 1,500 tons of fish were killed.

In addition, hundreds of June suckers were lost in 1932 when Utah Lake drained during a four-year drought. In 1999 there were only 300 documented fish.

Since then, its wild population has increased significantly, with more than 3,500 fish spawning annually in recent years.

5. Utah Lake is huge and has many effects

Utah Lake is very big. It has 96,000 surface miles but only an average depth of 9 feet.

It has an extensive watershed of nearly 3,000 square miles. It is fed by several rivers, including the Provo, American Fork, and Spanish Fork Rivers. It in turn feeds the Jordan, which flows into a canal system that supports the Great Salt Lake.

The “lake effect” plays an important role in the behavior of precipitation on Utah Lake. It supports several marinas and is a destination for anglers and yachtsmen. Its vast expanse helps warn the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City of high wind events that can endanger boaters, and there have been several tragic deaths over the years.

6. Your waste won’t go away with a flush

Is Utah Lake Disappearing? Several public sewage treatment plants discharge the treated wastewater into the lake, but many are 50 to 60 years old and not equipped to filter out the nutrients phosphorus and nitrogen, which are harmful to the lake’s health.

The excessive concentration of these nutrients contributes to the formation of harmful algal blooms. While the state’s environmental agencies limit phosphorus inputs, the rules are not enough to keep pace with the population surge in Utah County – the fastest growing region in the state.

It takes money, political strength and ecological willpower to solve the problem – but will it be in time to correct an ecological injustice and will residents be ready to pay the bill?


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