Sponsored: Utah Lake Restoration – Led by an expert team of scientists, engineers, professionals, and researchers with decades of experience restoring degraded waterways
Working together to save Utah Lake
When you think of Utah Lake, what comes to mind? You might think it’s gross, it smells bad, there’s toxic algae, and it’s probably not a place you’d like to hang out. But don’t give up just yet. There is something we as Utahns can do to improve it. Lake Utah’s problems are mostly man-made, and if we work together, we can once again have a thriving, healthy lake. Lake Restoration Solutions invites all of Utah to work together to save Lake Utah.
The Utah Lake Restoration Project is a comprehensive and holistic approach to ecosystem healing. Utah Lake was naturally in a clear water state with extensive submerged vegetation on the lake bed. Due to the introduction of invasive species and decades of nutrient pollution and neglect, as well as other challenges, the lake is now experiencing significant toxic algal blooms, teeming with mosquitoes and carp, and most people avoid recreating there.
Utah Lake loses more than 120 billion gallons of precious water to evaporation every year. This is more than 40% of the total volume of the lake. The area of the lake is about 90,000 acres with an average depth of only about nine feet.
To decrease evaporation, the area of the lake must be reduced. This is done by dredging the bottom of the lake and using the soil to create dredge containment areas, or islands. This process is done without lowering the level of the lake. The current proposal reduces the area by approximately 20%, which will save tens of billions of gallons of water each year.
Bringing Utah Lake back to life
One of the objectives of the project is to restore the submerged aquatic vegetation of the bottom of the lake. Historically, submerged vegetation was an essential component of the ecosystem’s food web. It also anchored lake bed sediments and provided habitat for aquatic species. This vegetation is practically non-existent on the bed of the lake. Dredging to deepen the lake and the strategic placement of dredge containment areas will reduce the wave forces that currently prevent the recovery of submerged vegetation.
Based on solid science
The whole project is based on an understanding of the lake and the use of scientific solutions. The Utah Lake Restoration Project brought together a team of top experts to plan, design and execute the plan. They come from a variety of scientific and engineering disciplines with decades of experience restoring degraded waterways.
In addition to reviewing historical data and studies, the team continues to gather an unprecedented amount of new information about the lake and its ecosystem to inform restoration and enhancement plans.
Dredging the lake and creating containment areas (islands) provides several environmental benefits. These include removing contaminated sediment from the lake bed, restoring submerged aquatic vegetation, reducing evaporation, expanding the shoreline by 190 miles, increasing wetlands and constructing new habitat areas for birds and fish.
There will be three types of islands created by the project: wildlife/estuarine islands, recreational islands and community islands. Wildlife islands are designed to provide ideal habitat for avian species, including migratory birds. Recreation Islands include wildlife habitat and are designed to provide incredible public recreation opportunities including campsites, picnic areas, beaches, docks and trails. Community islands will be home to beautiful, planned and sustainable communities that will cover the cost of restoration. It’s what pays for the billions of dollars of needed restoration work without raising taxes. Approximately 50% of the land created is for public recreation, wildlife habitat, public access and open space.
The project team recently completed an extensive geophysical survey of the lake bed sediments, and world-renowned geotechnical engineers are currently performing further in-depth analyzes of its soils to create the final dredging and engineering plans.
The project is at the start of an extensive environmental review process that will take 18 to 24 months or more. Everything must be done in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act, which includes extensive review by state and federal agencies, including the EPA, US Fish & Wildlife Service, and US Army Corps of Engineers. This process includes evaluation of scientific data and research by experts on water, habitat, endangered species, etc. Federal regulators will conduct a thorough and objective review of the project that will take into account public interest and environmental factors. It is an orderly and transparent public process. Public comments and comments are encouraged.
Together we can make a difference
If we all work together, we can restore Lake Utah to a healthy and thriving ecosystem that benefits everyone. From helping to alleviate the state’s current water shortages, to providing a safe and clean recreation area and a thriving habitat for plant and animal life, the goals of the lake restoration project Utah deserve a monumental collaboration.
Join us in imagining a better Utah lake. Learn more at imagineutahlake.org