The shores of Utah Lake may not be much to look at now, but proper development of land around the lake could add $4 billion to the valuation of state lands, state Sen. Lorin Pace told Utah County Commissioners.
"The possibility exists that Utah Lake could be made one of Utah's most valuable resources," Pace, R-Salt Lake, said in a recent commission meeting."In the state of Utah, we really have done nothing with them (Utah Lake and the Great Salt Lake) in developing their economic potential."
Pace, who was involved in establishing the Provo-Jordan River Parkway, said he became interested in Utah Lake's development potential after being approached by several local officials, including Walt Farmer, chairman of American Fork's Industrial Development Committee, and Dee Call, former river parkway director.
"What they said to me sounded a little like a dream," Pace admitted. But after studying Utah Lake's potential, Pace said he was persuaded to work on legislation needed to fund the colossal project.
"We don't have a solution for all the problems," Farmer told commissioners, but "we have put together a vehicle to look at problems."
Commissioners welcomed the interest in the development of Utah Lake, which has been under study by the local Utah Lake Study Committee and the state's Utah Lake Advisory Committee, which Commissioner Brent Morris chairs.
Morris told Pace his participation will add credibility to local efforts to harvest the lake's economic potential. County Commission Chairman Malcolm Beck said support from legislators in Salt Lake City previously was lacking.
The two lake study committees are expected to release recommendations in February about the lake's development. Morris said both committees will suggest establishment of an authority board, for which Pace said his legislation will recommend $1 million to fund.
"We hope to have this bill in this Legislature," he said. Pace recommended that every city adjacent to the lake be given representation on the authority board.
Farmer said support for the lake's development must be mustered from throughout the county. "We need to carry this forward."
In addition to uniting government entities in pursuing the lake's development, Pace said, "I think funding is a significant problem."
To fund development, he recommended tax-increment financing, in which taxes to the county, school districts and other government entities would be frozen at current levels and any property taxes from increased valuation of developed property would go toward retiring bonds sold to fund the development.
Few state developmental projects carry as much economic promise, he added. If done properly, Pace said, diking could maintain the lake level year-round and allow development of parks, golf courses, wildlife habitats and boating facilities along the lake's shores.
"The possibility exists that Utah Lake could be made one of Utah's most valuable resources" within a 22-year development period, he said.