BYU Professor Presents ‘7 More Problems’ With Utah Lake Restoration Project | News, Sports, Jobs

Ashtyn Asay, Daily Herald

Two birds swim at Utah Lake State Park on Monday, April 25, 2022.

A Brigham Young University professor has released what he claims are “seven more problems” with a controversial Utah Lake Restoration Project proposal, though developers continue to claim the plan will do no harm.

Benjamin Abbott, an assistant professor of plant and wildlife sciences at BYU, has been an outspoken opponent of the Utah Lake Restoration Project, which is a proposal to dredge Utah Lake in order to build islands for recreational, estuarine, and residential purposes.

On July 17, Abbott made a post on his blog titled “Seven More Problems with the Utah Lake Islands Proposal,” following a post he posted in November.

“There have been some major revelations since then, and I thought an update was in order,” Abbott wrote in his July 17 post. “Regardless of your current position on the island project, this issue is too important to stay on the fence. Utah Lake needs all of us to be informed and engaged.

In the post, Abbott says Lake Restoration Solutions did not answer questions about who would be held liable for potential damage from the project, nor was it clear with the public about what the project would specifically entail. He also states that the company has quashed a healthy debate around the Utah Lake Restoration Project and questions the validity of the science behind it.

“They claim without proof that their island town will help the lake and are asking the people of Utah to give them an undisclosed amount of public land in and around the lake as compensation,” Abbott wrote. “Although LRS has released few details of its island developments, leaked documents suggest they could earn $11 billion from the land transfer alone.”

Abbott also accuses Lake Restorations Solutions of using “double talk and double standards,” making misleading comparisons between the Utah Lake Restoration Project and other dredging projects, and alleges that some members of the Lake Restoration Solutions have a history of misuse of public funds and ethical disputes. .

“As a scientist, I naively assumed that the Utah Lake debate would be settled by scientific evidence. The lawsuit forced me to dig deeper into the relationships behind the island proposal,” Abbott wrote, referencing the litigation against him by Lake Restorations Solutions for his public comments. “Digging into the promoters’ past, I was shocked and saddened by what I discovered. I hate personal attacks, but I believe these details are directly relevant to the question of whether LRS is the right band. to lead the restoration of Lake Utah.

Although Abbott is clearly wary of the Utah Lake restoration project, his July 17 post makes it clear that he is not for an entirely hands-off approach to restoration of the lake. He praised ongoing restoration efforts on the lake, such as the June Sucker Recovery Implementation Program, a multi-agency effort to promote the recovery of the once-endangered June Sucker fish. found only in Utah Lake.

“The June Sucker Recovery Implementation Program and the other truly impressive efforts in and around the lake have made major progress, and even bigger milestones are on the way,” Abbott said. “I guess it’s a question of whether we have the commitment and the vision to stay the course, or whether we’re going to get distracted by some get-rich-quick cure.”

According to Jon Benson, President and CEO of Lake Restoration Solutions, the company is responding to a call to action from the Utah Legislature by creating what it believes will be a complete restoration solution for many challenges facing Utah Lake faces.

“Restoring Lake Utah and increasing public benefits and recreational opportunities are key priorities for the State of Utah. The legislation was passed in 2018 by the Utah State Legislature and updated in 2022 calling for action to address the interconnected and serious challenges facing Utah Lake,” Benson wrote in an email. email to the Daily Herald. “In response to this legislation, Lake Restoration Solutions has worked to provide a comprehensive solution to restore and enhance Utah Lake to enhance its public trust benefits for Utahns.”

The Utah Lake Restoration Project is currently undergoing a federal review process to determine its environmental impacts. This process will likely take at least two more years.

Benson maintains that the Utah Lake Restoration Project will benefit both Utah residents and wildlife residing in Utah Lake and states that Lake Restoration Solutions welcomes public discourse regarding the project.

“The Utah Lake Restoration Project increases and improves habitat for waterfowl, fish and other wildlife, improves water quality, saves billions of gallons of water each year, increases access to recreation and provides affordable, market-priced housing – all without raising taxes,” Benson wrote. “LRS welcomes public discourse and has come under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to help ensure that all voices are heard.”


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