Salt Lake County commissioners say a proposal to create a fresh-water reservoir by diking the Great Salt Lake is an intriguing concept, but granting county support now would be premature.

The county's major question about the proposal is a financial one, commissioners said. Should the project, estimated to cost $90 million, get off the ground, the dike would compete with other projects for county tax dollars."It's an exciting idea, one that's captured people's imaginations," said commission chairman Mike Stewart. "But I can think of four problems."

Those problems are other development proposals already under study or on the drawing board, including a minimum security county jail, a proposed expansion of Salt Lake convention facilities, a new downtown arena and a light rail transportation system.

Commissioners met this week with several members of the board of directors for the so-called Lake Wasatch project, which would create a 650-square-mile reservoir by diking the Great Salt Lake from Promontory Point to Fremont and Antelope islands and the south shore.

The dike proponents weren't asking for support but only wanted to educate commissioners on the proposal, said board member D. Kent Michie.

Even so, Commissioner Bart Barker was skeptical because most of the benefits from the dike - greater tax base resulting from increased development, more tourist visits and creation of jobs - would occur outside Salt Lake County.

"We need to be sure Salt Lake County taxpayers don't have to shoulder more than their share of the burden," Barker said. "County taxpayers now subsidize the Salt Palace while the state and city get the benefits. It's a cow - with the county owning both ends but someone else getting the milk.

"We have to make sure we don't give birth to another cow that our taxpayers fund but don't benefit from."