Utah Lake Restoration Project must complete Environmental Impact Statement
Lake Restoration Solutions, the proponent of the Utah Lake Restoration Project, announced Wednesday that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has deemed an Environmental Impact Statement to be necessary for the project to move forward in the NEPA process.
The Utah Lake Restoration Project is a proposal to dredge Utah Lake in order to create islands, which LRS claims will help clean up the lake while creating recreation opportunities and residential areas for residents. The project has received fierce opposition from local advocacy groups and different governmental bodies in Utah County.
The Environmental Protection Agency requires an EIS in the NEPA process, when a proposed major federal action has been determined to significantly affect the quality of the human environment.
LRS submitted the permit application for the project, which was prepared by Geosyntec Consultants, to the USACE in December 2021. For this next step in the NEPA process, LRS will utilize an independent third-party contractor to prepare the statement.
“This is the next natural step in the environmental review process,” Jon Benson, president of LRS said in a press release. “It’s a positive step that the Army Corps has officially determined the project will require an EIS, which will allow a thorough and public examination of the scientific and environmental merits of the restoration project, including public input, and responses to questions posed.”
In order to prepare an EIS, LRS will now publicly post a request for EIS proposals from third-party contractors, and any interested parties will be able to submit their proposals and qualifications for review. The company must then select the three candidates that they deem most qualified and provide a list of those candidates to the USACE within 60 days of March 10 — specifically, the deadline is May 9.
The USACE will ultimately select the contractor to create the impact statement, who they deemed to have adequate experience with NEPA and the regulatory program.
“As the lead Federal agency, the Corps is responsible for the preparation and content of the EIS to ensure an independent review,” reads the USACE Sacramento District website. “Although the applicant incurs the cost of the preparation of the EIS, the contractor is under the sole direction of the Corps, and will have limited interaction with the applicant.”
Benson hopes that the fact that the EIS will be prepared by a third-party contractor will provide stakeholders in the project with some peace of mind.
“By design, the environmental review process is a methodical and independent evaluation. Adding a third-party contractor whose work will be directed by the Army Corps provides confidence to all stakeholders that this review process will be unbiased,” said Benson.
After a contractor has been chosen to complete the EIS, the USACE will publish a Notice of Intent to prepare an EIS in the Federal Register and issue a public notice. This Notice of Intent will be a call to action for members of the public to submit factors that should be considered in the EIS. Both the initial and final drafts of the EIS will be released to the public for public comment through an availability notice that will be published in the Federal Register.
Even as the Utah Lake Restoration project advances to this next step in the NEPA process, the process will take at least another two years.