The Utah Lake Study Committee has voted to recommend to the Utah County Commission establishment of a wildlife refuge in Goshen Bay and Benjamin Slough that would be under state and local control.
But the committee voted not to make a recommendation on boundaries and said property rights of current landowners should be considered.The Utah County Commission appointed the Utah Lake Study Committee to make recommendations on the development of Utah Lake. The committee is preparing final-recommendation reports on the lake for the commission.
Originally, the committee had included Provo Bay in its wildlife refuge proposals, but has modified its recommendation based on public comments at several meetings last year.
Committee Chairman LaVorn Sparks said four proposals are being made for a refuge: no refuge, creation of a refuge by the federal government, creation of a refuge by the state, and a proposal by the Utah Lake Landowners that no formal refuge be established but that easements be purchased from landowners all around the lake to support wildlife.
Sparks said that unless the state or county acts on the issue it is likely the federal government will create a refuge on Utah Lake.
"The CUP bill was funded without an attachment for a wildlife refuge, but Senator Jake Garn's office said we'd better prepare because there will be a refuge built at some time," Sparks said.
Committee members agreed that it is preferable to have such a refuge established by the state and under local rather than federal control.
Landowners around Utah Lake, primarily farmers, have been concerned about the effects a refuge might have on the use of pesticides. The fluctuating level of the lake and management of that water level and of any refuge established on the lake also have been concerns.
"The landowners came up with a proposal because none of the proposals took into consideration how Utah Lake has constantly fluctuated," said Robert Fillerup, attorney for Utah Lake Landowners Inc.
Fillerup said the problem with establishing a refuge based on water levels is that the wildlife will follow the fluctuation of that water and not remain in designated areas. He said the landowner's proposal makes the refuge match the lake fluctuations.
The landowners have proposed that easements be purchased from willing landowners around the lake, with all land below 4,492-foot elevation qualifying for the easement.
Compromise elevation, the level at which water can be stored without liability to landowners, is 4,489.
The landowners' proposal would be the new compro mise level, settling potential disputes and litigation about the bed of the lake.
The easements would be in perpetuity and would consist of ponds, marshes, groves, ditches and hedgerows, as designated by the landowners.
The landowners' proposal recommends that the state Division of Wildlife Resources manage the refuge and recognizes that land below compromise level would beowned by the state.
Also, the proposal says landowners would sell the Central Utah Water Conservancy District, which manages the Central Utah Project, an additional flood easement above compromise level of from 1 to 2 feet.
The landowners estimate that at least 500 acres and possibly more would be available for easement purchase and total cost for wildlife and flood easements would be $10 million.
"This a simple solution in our opinion that doesn't require federal government involvement and is basically already in place," Fillerup said.
Input file was /asst/csi/1025/pass2/0051 Output file was /asst/csi/1025/pass3/0066