Friday, January 12, 2007

Utah Lake

Utah is a state famed for its "great and peculiar beauty," and Utah Lake is one of our state's great treasures. This is why I 'm so pleased with three recent actions American Fork has taken to preserve and enhance this beautiful natural endowment.

Utah Lake Management Commission

The first is not so recent, but came when the City Council voted last Spring to join the Utah Lake Management Commission. The Commission was created out of a belief that "Utah Lake is one of Utah's great natural treasures and that cooperation . . . would promote beneficial utilization of the natural resources of the lake, facilitate orderly planning and development in and around the lake, and assist in the . . . management of Utah Lake and its shoreline." [From the Interlocal Cooperation Agreement.] Its stated purposes include stewardship of both the natural environment -- meaning the water quality, the wetlands habitat, and the fish and wildlife -- and the human environment which surrounds the lake. Transportation, recreation, trails, access and parking, development, land-use planning and economic activity -- and the funding of all of these -- all are concerns of the Commission.

American Fork is represented on the Commission by our mayor. He is joined by the mayors of all other cities and towns bordering on the lake, by Utah County, the Central Utah Water Conservancy District, and by various natural resource agencies including the forestry division and the division of wildlife resources.

Marina Overlay Zone

Second is the new marina overlay zone which was adopted by the City Council earlier this week. The result of long and careful study by the Planning Commission, this ordinance allows for private facilities which will enhance the American Fork Marina -- including picnic and camping areas, boat storage areas and launching ramps, recreational housing facilities, eating establishments and curio shops -- provided they fit within the designated area and comply with the regulations of the zone. The zone will not allow development on designated open space or protected wetlands or stream corridors, but, in time, it will allow more residents to access and enjoy Utah Lake. Kudos to the Planning Commission and the Planning Department for their vision and hard work.

Resolution Concerning the Alignment of the Mountain View Corridor

Third: At Mayor Thompson's behest, the City Council Tuesday night passed a resolution pertaining to three transportation issues: the proposed Mountain View Corridor, the Main Street interchange off I-15, and the possible restriping of State Street to become 7 lanes through downtown American Fork. The resolution establishes an official City position that staff and elected officials will represent when working with UDOT.

Each issue is significant by itself, but it is the Mountain View Corridor that impacts Utah Lake. Proposed as an alternative east-west traffic corridor, the Mountain View Corridor is intended to relieve congestion on I-15 and SR 89 (State Street). Various alignments through American Fork have been proposed. Tuesday's resolution establishes the southern alignment as the only acceptable alignment for American Fork. Why?

(1) Any more northern route will split the community south of I-15 in two. True, there is not much development there at present. But any future development will be forced into the same divisive residential pattern that now exists along our Main Street, with schools and congregations and scout troops straddling an artery that is physically impassible by pedestrians (and almost impassible by cars). This makes it very difficult to establish community bonds.

(2) The proposed southern alignment runs along the hundred-year flood line of Utah Lake, a line that also marks the boundary of American Fork's shoreline protection zone. Positioning the Mountain View Corridor along this line would create a natural barrier to development, enabling the City to protect the natural wetlands, stream corridors, and recreational opportunities that exist here. Any more northern alignment, and it will be difficult to prevent developers, with their passel of property rights and precedents, from encroaching into this zone -- even though any development would be at high risk for flood damage.


I grew up in western Washington state, a land liberally endowed with lakes, rivers, and streams. Every tiny town had some kind of lake access. Some of my best memories are canoeing with my brothers or scrambling through the woods to hunt for bullfrogs in the marsh. Lakes in our Utah desert, by contrast, are few and far between. I am so pleased to see American Fork taking these steps to preserve Utah Lake as the beautiful scenic monument it deserves to be.


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