Plan to build islands on Utah Lake discussed at Lindon Marina
Todd Parker, project manager for Arches Utah Lake, wants to see a proposed project to build islands on Utah Lake become a reality.
The proposed project looks to bring Utah Lake’s ecosystem back to its former glory by dredging the lake, restoring natural plants and animals and building multiple types of islands in order to fund that project.
Parker presented information about the proposed island project Wednesday night to a group of boaters at the Lindon Marina before fielding questions.
Decades of decline have created a lake that cannot clean itself, Parker said, which is where, as Parker describes, a “comprehensive restoration plan” comes in, which is hoped to tackle some of Utah Lake’s biggest issues, including its frequent toxic algal blooms and invasive species like carp.
The proposed plan would dredge Utah Lake to remove nutrient-loaded sediments — but not all at once. The dredging would be done in phases, over a period of several years. Deep water channels would also be created throughout the lake to allow for water to circulate around the lake, creating better fish habitat and other benefits, Parker said.
Renderings of the proposed islands that would be built in the process show a large, Delicate Arch-shaped island in the middle of the lake, with various smaller islands, including two shaped like seagulls, just above it.
Parker showed a rendering of how the islands would be built, which showed large tubes filled with fine sediment. Those tubes form the outline of an island, and the middle is filled in to create the island.
Three types of islands would be created under the proposal, Parker said. Estuary islands, which would protect the shoreline and create a space for native littoral zone plants. The second type of islands would be public islands with amenities like campgrounds, beaches, picnic areas and trails.
The third type of island is what Parker said would fund the project: development islands, where an environmentally-conscious city would be developed to fund the $6.4 billion needed to accomplish the rest of the project. Parker said there are global investors ready to fund the project in phases.
“There is no way for the public to even bear the cost of the dredging, let alone something like this,” Parker said.
Government agencies have spent millions of dollars on attempting lake restoration projects, like removing invasive plants and animals like phragmites and carp.
To the group of boaters in the room, Parker said the plan would create more marinas, and spread out the usage of boats around the lake, rather than have the usage as concentrated as it is now.
The proposal is far from final, however. It is still going through both state and federal processes before it could become a reality and start phase one. Parker said they are currently working through the Environmental Impact Statement process with both the state of Utah and the Environmental Protection Agency.
The proposal does, however, have its skeptics. Ben Abbott, a professor at Brigham Young University who studies hydrology ecosystems, counts himself among them.
At the seminar Wednesday night, Abbott asked Parker about what he called “ecological uncertainties” with the project, and what some of the consequences could be if the project clarifies the lake water and deepens the lake as planned.
“Those are two of the characteristics of the lake that currently protect Utah Lake from being what we call hypereutrophic,” Abbott said. “A lake that has as much nutrients in it as Utah Lake does usually has algal blooms all through the year.”
Creating islands in the lake would also reduce the surface area, which in turn would reduce evaporation. Parker touted it as water conservation, but Abbott said it would also reduce the source water for snow pack.
“There are all of these ecological effects, I know about 100 water researchers in the state of Utah, and I haven’t talked to a single one of them who says, yeah, we think that this can work, that they can achieve the goals,” Abbott said.
“Let’s put that science together and say, where do we come out on that? Will this work?” Parker said. “It has worked in thousands of others of lakes. Has it not worked in others? Yes … and Norway is already doing this.”