Changes coming to Utah Lake Summit

UTAH LAKE, Utah -- From toxic algal blooms to invasive fish, Utah Lake is no stranger to problems. But, for the first time, all the experts got together for the first ever Utah Lake Summit. This summit gathered everyone who works on, uses and researches Utah Lake.

Hundreds filled a ballroom of the Provo Convention Center - all representing an agency or group that takes an interest in the future of Utah’s largest freshwater lake.

“I don't think there’s any question, as the population increases, not only in the state but in Utah county that the role that Utah Lake will play will continue to be more and more significant. I don’t know that we really appreciate or respect the value of Utah Lake. I think it’s been something that’s been overlooked, and for those who use it, I’m not so sure they want people to know how great it is,” said Gene Shawcroft - General Manager for the Central Utah Water Conservancy District.

The Central Utah Water Conservancy district worked to bring all these people together. The hope is that these groups can have a chance to meet, collaborate more in the future, and thus speed up Utah Lake improvements.

“There has been a lot of work done and it’s resulted in a much-improved water quality in many parts of the lake, but we do think there’s a lot of work still to be done,” said Erica Gaddis, Acting Director of the Division of Water Quality.

25 million pounds of invasive carp (that disrupt the ecosystem and stir up sediments) have been removed from the lake since 2009, but it hasn’t been enough to solve the lake's toxic algal blooms.

Last year’s bloom caused the entire lake to be shut down for the first time in history and now many groups are looking to get involved.

“We secured some funding from our water quality board to install real-time sensors in Utah Lake… that'll help us have any early warning for any blooms that might occur this summer,” said Gaddis.

The water has already risen to five feet in the last five months. The deeper water is expected to help with alga blooms this summer but also with the ability to go out on the water and appreciate what we all have access to.

“All these elements are really coming together and it's enhancing a visitor's experience out on the lake and it's fantastic to see,” said Jason Allen, park manager at Utah Lake State Park.

Other improvements include plans to dredge marinas, connect bike trails, and to continue phragmites removal ( an invasive plant) and pulling out millions of pounds of carp (invasive fish).

“When we started this program back in 2009 the goal was to reduce the population by about 75% and in order to do that we needed to remove somewhere between 4 and 5 million pounds on an annual basis. So we’ve been doing this since 2009 and we’ve removed about 25 million pounds, we’re close to our goal, we probably still have another couple of years,” said Michael Mills - coordinator for the June Sucker Recovery Program.

Jason Allen says as far as dredging marina’s goes, Saratoga Springs is currently doing it and is expected to open in the next few weeks, Provo has plans to dredge this fall, and American Fork has plans but lacks the funding thus far.