FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
ABOUT THE PROJECT
No. The top priority of the Utah Lake Restoration Project is to improve the lake’s ecosystem. We see the lake as a wonderful natural resource, with incredible ecological potential. Improving the health of the lake requires a multi-faceted, holistic approach. The major parts of which are dredging and containment, wildlife habitat restoration, and water quality improvement and conservation.
The term restoration is used in reference to the overall health of the lake’s ecosystem. We want to see a clean lake in which native species thrive. Our ultimate goal is to leave the lake much better than it is now.
We seek to fix the damage that has been done to the lake, and that requires a comprehensive solution that addresses each unique challenge. The Utah Lake Restoration Project will restore and improve water quality, a healthy fishery, and native vegetation in and around the lake. The project will also restore confidence in Utah Lake as a safe and enjoyable place to visit, live, and recreate.
The primary purpose of dredging is to remove nutrient-polluted sediments that feed toxic algal blooms. Dredging will also deepen the lake, reducing disturbance of the lakebed by wind-driven waves, and facilitating re-establishment of submerged aquatic vegetation. Dredged material will be beneficially used in containment areas that appear as islands strategically shaped and located to improve circulation, and control wave action on the lake. The dredged material will be sequestered in a way that will prevent the nutrients from reentering the lake. These islands will also expand fish and wildlife habitat, protect shorelines, and reduce evaporation.
Constructing islands is integral to the restoration of Utah Lake. Removing the nutrient rich sediment greatly reduces the formation of toxic algal blooms. These islands, or containment areas, have been determined to be the most ecologically friendly way to store and sequester the dredged material, as well as creating extensive new wildlife habitat.
Slightly reducing the surface area of the lake will have an enormous impact with regard to combating evaporation (about 24 billion gallons of water annually). It allows the storage capacity of the lake to be increased, which will help the overall water system. The shorelines create an excellent environment for native vegetation to grow, which will also help secure the lakebed and provide habitat for fish.
With the current plan, 18,000 acres of land will be created (which is ~20% of the lake’s surface area). Modeling suggests that this is the ideal surface area reduction needed for water conservation. Roughly half of the land created by the project will be public – for wildlife habitat areas, recreation, parks, trails, open space, and public access.
Estuaries of wildlife islands will be for habitat and wildlife use, and access may be restricted at critical times of year, such as brooding season.
Recreation islands will be open to the public for activities such as camping and hiking. Recreation islands are meant to be used and enjoyed by everyone, as well as for expanding wildlife habitat.
Community islands will have beautiful, sustainable eco-communities. Besides providing housing including affordable housing options where Utahns can raise their families, these community islands will also provide public benefit in the form of improved lake access, open space, beaches, parks, and trails. The vast majority of the new shoreline created will be open to the public.
As opposed to a taxpayer funded model, which would cost as much as $40,000 per Utah County household, the fiscally responsible model state leaders chose is a public-private partnership that requires no new taxes. The entire project will be master planned to ensure the lake is a place that can be used for recreation and sustainable living.
There are thousands of acres of undeveloped land to the south and west of Utah Lake. Why not purchase that land and develop it?
Developing that land would be less expensive, and definitely much easier. But that would not solve the problem, which is the health of the lake. First and foremost, the project’s goal is to restore Utah Lake. Islands are an integral part of that ecological restoration. The new islands will provide additional or improved habitat for fish, waterfowl, and other wildlife. They will save billions of gallons of water from evaporation. They will help reduce wave forces on the lakebed. All of these are necessary components for a successful and comprehensive restoration.
Development of a portion of the land created is the funding mechanism that allows the project to happen without a tax increase. Without islands and some limited development, a comprehensive restoration isn’t possible.
UTAH LAKE’S HEALTH
Some parts are improving, and some parts are not. After 2 decades and millions of dollars spent on restoration projects, we would expect to see drastic improvement. A few positive results include reducing the carp population, downlisting the June sucker from endangered to threatened, and reducing Phragmites around the lake.
However, each of these issues require continued maintenance and improvements that are costing taxpayers millions of dollars while not addressing the primary problems, nutrient-polluted sediments in the lakebed, loss of submerged aquatic vegetation, and a broken food web. The Utah Lake Restoration Project will help fund and support existing efforts moving forward, and more importantly, provides a non-taxpayer funded comprehensive restoration that addresses the primary problems.
Dredging will remove nutrient-polluted sediments that create conditions for toxic algal blooms. That sediment is loosely suspended at the bottom of the lake and is easily stirred up by waves when the wind blows across the lake, creating murky water. Dredging will deepen the lake and reduce forces on the lakebed by as much as 500%.
Man caused nutrient pollution will be significantly reduced
The force of wave energy along the lakebed will be reduced, reducing sediment resuspension and allowing vegetation to grow.
Re-established vegetation will help filter water.
The broken food web can be restored.
Reductions in water losses allow the lake to fill as it is dredged. During the project, water is saved faster than the storage capacity increase from deepening. The islands created in the lake with the dredged material will reduce the lake’s surface area by about 20%, which results in a ~20% reduction of evaporation. Island placement displaces some of the deepening, but the lake’s storage capacity also increases each year during dredging. This allows the lake to be deeper, while also maintaining historic water levels during dredging with significant extra water in the later stages of the project and every year after completion. In addition, billions of gallons of water will be saved from water loss by replacing invasive plant species with water-conscious native plants. These combined efforts will significantly add to the volume of water available to fill the deeper lake, with significant benefits to the overall water system. The extra water will be a huge benefit in the second driest state. Water managers will decide how the extra water is used, with some likely going toward human needs and potentially some of it reaching the Great Salt Lake, which desperately needs more water.
The conditions in which native vegetation can grow no longer exist. This is largely attributed to the invasive carp destroying the vegetation that historically secured the lakebed. This creates lakebed instability. Now, when the wind blows across the lake’s large surface area, significant waves are produced that loosen and stir up the sediment into the water column. Sequestering the loose sediment into containment islands reduces the amount of sediment in the lakebed.
By dredging the sediment and sequestering it in containment areas (islands), the loose sediment that gets stirred up and suspended in the water during a storm is removed; and because the lake will be deeper, and the wave forces on the lakebed are reduced, water clarity is improved meaning sunlight these plants need can reach the bottom, and a condition where native vegetation can be re-established is again created.
The project will also work with the State of Utah and the June Sucker Recovery Implementation Program (JSRIP) to continue to reduce and control the number of carp in the lake, preventing them from uprooting the re-established aquatic vegetation. Re-establishing aquatic vegetation will result in a more beautiful lake and help to restore a thriving ecosystem for fish and other wildlife.
Yes! At the Utah Lake Restoration Project, we believe that responsible, eco-friendly development is paramount. Best management practices, along with sustainable strategies and techniques will be implemented throughout every stage of the project. We are already collaborating with top sustainability experts to establish plans and standards to ensure these beautiful eco-communities maximize sustainability and protect the lake. This is a unique opportunity for conservation and development to work hand in hand to restore a valuable resource that will benefit local communities.
SUPPORTED BY SCIENCE
The entire project hinges on an understanding of the lake and utilizing science-driven solutions. LRS has assembled a team of top experts to plan, design, and effectuate the project. Though they come from a variety of scientific backgrounds, they all have one thing in common: they care about improving Utah Lake. The LRS team is made up of nationally recognized experts in water, limnology, environmental planning, ecosystem restoration, marine biology, hydrodynamics, fisheries, terrestrial and avian wildlife, wetlands and plants, soils, geology, paleontology, cultural and archaeological resources, visual resources, air quality, noise, land use, socioeconomics, pollution remediation, dredging, geotechnical engineering, and community planning and design.
In addition to reviewing historical data and studies, the team is gathering an unprecedented amount of new data about the lake and its ecosystem. The plan uses an adaptive management strategy that allows the plan to improve and evolve as science dictates.
A project as monumental as the Utah Lake Restoration Project requires significant experience, expertise, and collaboration. Lake Restoration Solutions has assembled a world-class team of scientists and engineers to effectuate the Utah Lake Restoration Project. The LRS team is made up of nationally recognized experts in water, limnology, environmental planning, ecosystem restoration, marine biology, hydrodynamics, fisheries, terrestrial and avian wildlife, wetlands and plants, soils, geology, paleontology, cultural and archaeological resources, visual resources, air quality, noise, land use, socioeconomics, pollution remediation, dredging, geotechnical engineering, and community planning and design.
The team includes professionals from Geosyntec Consultants and SWCA Environmental Consultants. LRS will continue to draw from Geosyntec and SWCA’s wealth of experience. These two indispensable partners are at the forefront of research and innovation on some of the most complex environmental projects in the nation, and around the world.
LRS also will continue to seek out the most qualified professionals to work on the project who care about a successful restoration of Utah Lake. We have worked with scientists to complete some of the most comprehensive studies and investigations of Utah Lake, including a lakebed survey, cone penetrometer testing, a wetlands assessment and complex water circulation and water quality modeling. Extensive studies are planned for this year and into the future as this learning process is ongoing.
Yes. LRS has enlisted the help of Geosyntec Consultants to conduct extensive core sampling. Geosyntec will also manage a comprehensive geophysical and geotechnical site investigation program to catalog the sediments of the lakebed. This includes conducting even more sampling throughout the lake this year and testing the lakebed sediment for nutrients and contaminants using core samples and lab testing.
If any toxic material is found it will be evaluated and treated appropriately. Existing studies indicate that industrial contamination from Geneva Steel is within acceptable ranges. Most of the pollution in the lake is believed to be nutrient pollution (like nitrogen and phosphorus), which is different from industrial pollution. In the quantities found in the lake, these nutrients feed harmful algal blooms, which create toxins in the water.
Yes, the sediment on the lakebed can be used to create islands. LRS completed an extensive geophysical study of the lakebed sediments, and world-renowned geotechnical engineers are currently conducting further in-depth geotechnical investigation of its soils. This is necessary for creating the final dredging plan, and engineering design of the islands.
When ground shaking occurs due to an earthquake, the ground can sometimes soften; this is known as liquefaction. The Utah Lake Restoration Project team has developed a thorough process to ensure that design of the islands addresses geologic risks. This includes conducting extensive assessments and studies of the soils and geology in the area. This will inform the final design, engineering, and construction of the islands. The potential for earthquakes along the Wasatch Front is relatively high because there are several geologic fault lines in the region including in Utah Lake’s lakebed. Much of the soil around Utah Lake is a type that has a high likelihood of liquefaction under certain conditions, without the correct ground improvements. Preventing and limiting liquefaction from happening on the Utah Lake islands will be achieved by deploying proven engineering and construction methodologies that mitigate these risks, with soil dewatering and compacting as part of the core strategy.
MENDING PAST MISTAKES
Dredging the lake is only one aspect of the project. The project will fund and support the separate processes of removing invasive plant and fish species.
We will also help re-establish native vegetation and habitat that benefit fish, including the June sucker.
The midges and mosquitoes are so bad, why would anyone want to spend any time on or around the lake?
The current issues with bugs are a symptom of the lake’s current problems. Phragmites around the shoreline grow so dense that the fish/minnows that would normally feed on the midges and mosquitoes can’t get to them. Native vegetation doesn’t grow as densely, and much of the bug problem can be resolved naturally as the fish habitat is restored and a healthy fishery is established. These efforts will greatly improve the lake experience.
Wastewater treatment facilities are an indispensable part of any community. However, one major source of nutrient pollution has been from the discharge of effluent from local wastewater treatment facilities. They may need to be upgraded to reduce the nutrient contents of their effluent. The project has set aside in its budget money to upgrade wastewater treatment facilities around the lake to reduce their effluent discharges.
Another source of nutrient pollution is from fertilizer. The project will encourage everyone around the lake to reduce or eliminate unnecessary fertilizer use. The islands will be designed so they are able to filter water prior to it reentering the lake using a wide range of best management practices, including bioswales, bioretention basins, and biofilters. Fertilizer use will be managed on the islands to prevent any issues from stormwater. Wastewater from community islands will be treated to eliminate nutrients before the effluent enters the lake.
Some nutrient inflows are unavoidable in any waterway, but a vibrant and healthy ecosystem can naturally manage more reasonable levels if the existing nutrient pollution in the lakebed is significantly reduced.
Current modeling indicates the project will save 30 billion gallons of water by reducing the lake’s surface area, which in turn reduces evaporation and by removing invasive plants (primarily Phragmites).
Warm temperatures, shallow depths, and the large surface area of Utah Lake all contribute to evaporation. Utah Lake currently loses about 44% of its total volume annually (122 billion gallons or 375,000 acre-feet) to evaporation. The project will reduce water lost to evaporation by deepening the lake and reducing its surface area. Dredged sediment will be stored in containment areas, which will look like natural islands. These areas reduce the surface area of the lake by about 20%, creating a ~20% reduction in evaporation. Our current modeling show that as much as 24 billion gallons of water will be saved by evaporation reduction alone. The project will also remove 8,000+ acres of invasive Phragmites, also known as common reed, along the lake shore, which use much greater amounts of water than native lake shore plants. Replacing Phragmites with native water conscious species will help save approximately seven billion gallons of water each year. This combined is just over 31 billion gallons. It’s important to note these are preliminary estimates and the final project design could add to or decrease the savings, but it’s safe to say that billions of gallons of water will be added to the state’s water supply. Utah is the second-driest state in the nation, and 20 years into a megadrought. We could desperately use more water.
Marker Wadden in the Netherlands is a similar sized ongoing project that has seen remarkable success with regard to ecological recovery.
The Utah Lake Restoration Project is one of the largest restoration projects ever undertaken, but it is really a series of manageable projects, each with measurable benefits. The project is divided into 5 phases, and a total of 34 islands with full completion estimated to be between 12 and 15 years. If only one island or one phase were completed, the environmental benefits would be tremendous, with significant reductions in nutrient-loaded sediments, increased lake storage, and reduced evaporation. Of course the full environmental benefit is realized when the full project needs are completed.
The dredge containment areas (islands) being created are individually smaller in size than other dredging and island creation projects around the world. Other projects with much larger islands have been successfully created throughout the world. Island creation technologies have been used for over 100 years.
No, dredging and reducing lake surface area will result in more storage capacity, less lakebed exposure as water is used, and reduced evaporation. This will result in more water being available, not less. Dust will be mitigated as islands are created, soils allowed to compact and dewater, and land is vegetated with native plants. Dredging does not require that water levels be lowered, or the lake drained.
Some of Utah Lake’s water makes it to the Great Salt Lake via the Jordan River, but much of the water is either used, or evaporates prior to reaching the GSL. The Utah Lake Restoration Project will significantly reduce water loss from evapotranspiration savings (that includes evaporation and transpiration from plants like Phragmites), which could potentially allow more water to reach the Great Salt Lake in the future.
Will the lake be divided into smaller bodies of water, or will there be a causeway like in the Great Salt Lake?
No, the lake won’t be divided into smaller bodies of water, with one possible exception which is a lake-in-lake concept near Vineyard City. The main issue with causeways in the Great Salt Lake and other waterways is that they limit the free circulation of lake water. Some of the planned islands for Utah Lake will be connected to the shore with roadways to provide access and improve traffic flow. The roadway design will include bridges, elevated roadways, and some causeway portions allowing the water in the lake to circulate and aquatic wildlife to move freely throughout the lake. The team has performed water modeling using both current lake status as well as with islands in place. The findings from this modeling determined water circulation in the improved state would be consistent with existing circulation patterns, with an overall slight improvement in circulation.
Ice floes during the spring and winter can be planned for. The creation of all islands helps to ensure the ice will be broken up, and ice floe forces will be reduced. Estuary islands (also known as barrier islands) are specifically placed to help limit damage to the shoreline’s established vegetation by limiting ice floes compared to the current state.
Disclaimer: The numbers presented on this site are based on conceptual plans and preliminary modeling. Numbers are subject to change as additional data, engineering, modeling, and modifications to the plan result from the permitting process led by the US Army Corps of Engineers.
DRIVEN BY SCIENCE.
POWERED BY PASSION.
We’re working with world-class scientists and engineers to save Utah Lake after more than 150 years of degradation. Our plans are informed by proven technology and data to ensure a responsible, sustainable path forward for the lake and surrounding area. Learn all about the partnerships, studies, and assessments that are driving this project from concept to reality.