Rush for Utah Lake Development
The House Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee rushed to approve a bill that enables the state to give away public lands to private developers. Sponsored by Rep Mike McKell, HB272 would create a process for the State to allow the creation of man-made islands and a new city on Utah Lake under the guise of “restoring” its polluted water. In committee, the discussion referenced swapping between 10,000-15,000 acres of public lands for real estate development. The value of this land could be as much as $500 million.
Utah Lake has long struggled with poor water quality, a function of climate change warming up its shallow polluted waters, which leads to toxic bacterial growth in the water column. It's difficult to imagine how adding real estate development to this mix will benefit the water quality.
The bill envisions swapping public lands for cash reserves to be used for improved water quality, but no standards are offered to measure water quality restoration or to determine the values of the lands.
The URC agrees that more needs to be done to address the water quality issues at Utah Lake, but a bill putting pressure on the state to swap sovereign lands, owned by all Utahns, with developers who claim they will “restore” the Lake is a bad idea. Unfortunately this bill passed through committee on partisan lines and will be voted on by the full House soon.