Local government officials will meet this week to modify proposed legislation that would create a Utah Lake Advisory Council, something officials have wanted for more than three years.
Last week the Utah County Council of Governments discussed the proposed legislation to determine if members should seek support from local legislators. The proposed legislation is an amendment to a bill passed several years ago that created the Great Salt Lake Advisory Council.The amendment would create a technical team to help protect and develop the lake's resources. The advisory council would assist government officials and property owners with management of the lake and its surrounding properties.
The advisory council would work to ensure that public access to the lake is preserved for recreational uses while protecting the lake's wetlands. The advisory council would also help resolve disputes that may result in developing the lake. The amendment would provide the advisory council with $65,000 in funds, with more funding possibly coming from the federal government.
Similar legislation failed to get through the past two legislative sessions because state and county officials could not agree on the bill's wording. Local officials want a Utah Lake Advisory Council, but again are having difficulty with the proposed amendment's wording. Officials say the amendment as written gives too much power to state officials and not enough power to local officials.
"We would like to see something come out of this but we don't want it to be detrimental to the people who live in this county with interests in the lake," County Commissioner Malcolm Beck said. "We do want some kind of legislation so we can do some of the things we've been trying to do. So we have to work with the state because it owns the bed of the lake. We've been trying for three years to get this done so maybe we'll be able to work something out this time."
Most Council of Governments members are concerned about the county having adequate representation on the advisory council. The amendment as presented to the council last month by Scott Flandro, projects coordinator for Department of State Lands and Forestry, called for 13 members on the advisory council with the possibility of only three being Utah County residents. Officials did not support that amendment.
Flandro rewrote the amendment so that the advisory council has 15 members and as many as 10 could be Utah County residents. However, the amendment calls for directors of several state agencies to be members of the advisory council. Council of Governments officials want the wording changed to say "representatives of the boards" of those agencies, not the directors.
"The directors all have the same boss and would serve the same purpose," Beck said. "We can understand the state wanting to protect its concerns, but we want them to be the concerns of all the people."
Officials are also concerned that the amendment as written would not give the county adequate jurisdiction over land surrounding the lake. They claim the state should have limited say in projects involving land adjacent to the lake because the state only owns the lake bed. Most of the land adjacent to the lake is privately owned.
Mountainlands Association of Governments officials are concerned that water-quality projects already in place on the lake may be discontinued if the amendment as written passes. They want the amendment to keep those programs in effect.
Flandro told the Council of Governments that the state also wants a Utah Lake Advisory Council, but he said the attorney general's office may balk at an amendment that gives too much power to the county.
"We are not trying to interfere with local law," Flandro said.
Beck, Provo Mayor Joseph Jenkins, Orem Mayor Blaine Willes and Homer Chandler, director of Mountainlands, will meet sometime this week to modify the amendment. Officials will take the modified amendment to local legislators for support.
"If you develop a bill, we'll push it through," Sen. C.E. "Chuck" Peterson told Council of Governments members.
Proposed members of Utah Lake Advisory Council:
- Representative from the State Lands and Forestry Board (chairman).
- One Utah County commissioner.
- Representative from the board of the Central Utah Water Conservancy District.
- Utah County public works director.
- State engineer or designee.
- Representative from Wildlife Resources Board.
- Representative from Parks and Recreation Board.
- Representative from Environmental Health Board.
Appointed by governor:
- One Utah County resident associated with agriculture.
- One lakeside homeowner.
- One member of a conservation or sportsman group.
- One member of downstream irrigation association.
- One Utah County resident associated with recreation.
- Two mayors of cities with land contiguous to lake.