Elected officials in Utah County and representatives of wildlife and environmental groups have inserted a compromise agreement for maintaining a portion of Provo Bay as a bird habitat in the Central Utah Project bill.
Provo Mayor Joe Jenkins said the groups signed the agreement Tuesday. Under terms of the agreement, the south and most of the east sides of the bay will not be established as a bird refuge but will be left in a state conducive to birds."What we are doing is making sure it doesn't get worse than it is but stays the same at least," said Bob Nelson, chairman of the Utah Wildlife Leadership Coalition. "It will preserve wetlands on the south and east shores of Provo Bay, and for now at least prevents, by statute, any degradation of that wetland."
The coalition represents 62 outdoor and environmental groups with combined membership of more than 60,000 people.
Provo City opposed turning the bay into a bird refuge because that use conflicts with operation of the
city's airport on the north side of the bay. But Sen. Bill Bradley, D-N.J., chairman of the Senate Water and Power Subcommittee, which deals with the CUP, told Jenkins in order for the bill to make it through Congress it had to include compromises with environmental and wildlife groups that supported the refuge.Provo Bay became a sticking point in the negotiations.
Jenkins said the city doesn't really like the compromise but that "we are going to have to live with it." The city is still concerned about how well bird habitats and airports mix.
"I think we all negotiated in good faith," Jenkins said. "It is something the county and the city can live with. It will benefit some people and not be to the detriment of any."
The agreement says no industrial, commercial or residential development will be permitted along the south side and much of the east end of the bay. Also protected is an area extending 2,000 feet into the bay.
Recreational development consistent with wildlife habitat will be permitted, however.
The agreement also allows future development of the Provo Municipal Airport and access roads along the north side of Provo Bay, Jenkins said.
State bird refuges will be created in Goshen Bay and Benjamin Slough.
The refuges will provide an important habitat resource for migrating waterfowl and a variety of other wildlife species, Nelson said.
Farmers with property along the southern shores of Utah Lake have opposed creation of bird refuges there because of limitations that could be imposed on use of fertilizers and pesticides and potential crop damage from birds.
"We hope that Provo Bay and Strawberry are the last discussions that have to be dealt with before Congress can take action on the CUP bill," Nelson said.