Agency seeks public comment on draft management plan for Utah Lake
The Utah Lake Authority is encouraging the public to provide feedback on its draft management plan for Utah Lake that was released Friday. The comment period will last until Oct. 29.
The plan, which is more than 100 pages long, lays out objectives to improve the lake’s ecosystem and recreation experience and create a “vibrant” community around the lake.
The plan emphasizes improving water quality, removing invasive fish like common carp and improving Utah Lake’s recreation and public perspective.
“Our goal in developing that management plan was to have a variety of solutions for many of the different issues,” said Eric Ellis, executive director of the ULA.
The plan contains three areas of focus — thriving ecosystem, world-class recreation and vibrant communities — with each area having four goals with specific objectives.
Improving the lake’s ecosystem and water quality is a heavy emphasis in the management plan, contributing to other objectives like attracting recreation.
The draft plan includes several objectives to meet four goals in addressing the lake’s ecosystem: improving water quality, restoring and supporting fisheries and native fish, restoring healthy populations of native vegetation, and working with partners to remove common carp and other invasive fish.
The presence of non-native carp in the lake, which were introduced in the late 1800s, has led to decreased water quality and biodiversity as their feeding behavior removes underwater vegetation, according to the June Sucker Recovery Program.
The draft proposes the creation of a Carp Extirpation Plan within the next six to 18 months to significantly reduce the invasive fish species and improve the lake’s ecosystem.
Ellis said raising the water levels isn’t a specific goal in the plan; rather, they intend to work with water users to maintain the lake levels and prevent volatility in water levels.
Keeping a consistent water elevation will also improve the ecosystem, Ellis said, and help shoreline restoration and reestablish submerged aquatic vegetation.
“When your water level swings for 4 feet or 5 feet, what was once, you know, inundated with water is now high and dry,” he said. “And so all of that vegetation that is intended to live underwater is dead.”
Another objective is developing both short-term and long-term strategies to reduce toxic algae blooms in the lake, which can be harmful to humans and animals.
The ULA proposal emphasizes improving the recreation at Utah Lake, including boosting the public’s perception of the lake.
The four goals included are improving access points to the lake, increasing knowledge of recreational amenities, improving the quality and volume of activities, and attracting and retaining more recreation-oriented businesses.
In the short term, Ellis said there’s a focus on improving the shoreline trails around the lake, specifically north of Springville up to Saratoga Springs. Part of improving these trails, he said, is to ensure there are facilities along the way like restrooms, benches and beaches.
As they increase amenities at the lake to attract more visitors, Ellis said he hopes that will bring in lakeshore businesses such as paddle board rentals and shoreline restaurants.
“Our thought is, you know, as we develop some of those — what are really simple amenities — and get our core population visiting the lake on a regular basis, that will then attract the businesses that can capitalize on having lots of people down near the lake, enjoying the lake,” he said.
While part of this goal is to help the physical neighborhoods surrounding the lake, Ellis said they also want to focus on amenities and facilities for communities who use the lake.
“What (vibrant communities) means is not just physical neighborhoods adjacent to the lake but also all of the communities that are utilizing the lake, so anglers and sailors and birding communities and hunting,” he said.
The plan listed four goals for this focus area: promoting the growth of sustainable lake amenities and businesses, increasing connection to Utah Lake and neighboring communities, developing a stormwater plan to improve water quality, and promoting public awareness of the lake through events, education and stewardship.
According to the draft, part of the effort to educate the community about the lake includes hosting lake-centered events such as festivals and fairs and developing educational programs.
The plan puts an emphasis on active and zero-emission transportation when discussing increasing access to the lake, such as creating a plan to identify missing links for bike lanes leading to the lake.
Citizens will have until Oct. 29 to review the plan and send any comments or suggestions to the ULA. To leave a comment and view the plan, visit utahlake.gov/utah-lake-management-plan/ and click “View the Final Draft Management Plan.”
“(The plan) identifies a lot of really fun projects that we can be prioritizing over the next few years,” Ellis said, “and it’ll be really fun to kind of see people rediscovering Utah Lake and having opportunities to be out there as frequently as they can. It is a gorgeous natural resource that is definitely underutilized.”