Background:

Lake Restoration Solutions, the company proposing the world’s largest dredged island project on Utah Lake, recently released the results of a poll that found 2/3rds of Utah County residents supported their project. As a group of citizens who have been following this issue closely for four years, we were surprised, and frankly incredulous about LRS’s claim. 

 

Over the past four years, we have spoken with thousands of Utahns from all backgrounds. Most have deep concerns about this proposal, and nearly 10,000 have signed the petition to stop LRS’s project altogether. 

 

Recognizing that our perception could be biased, we conducted some informal polling over the past few days. Starting on August 8th, we posted a simple poll on 10 Facebook pages across the valley. We posted in the community and “link” pages of each city and town that allowed polls (Lehi’s community page doesn’t allow polling). The question simply asked for people’s level of support for LRS’s project (full question text below). We collected the results of the polls on August 14th

 

There were 1020 respondents total from 9 towns and cities:

  1. Springville/Mapleton (228 respondents)
  2. Vineyard (211 respondents)
  3. Spanish Fork (182 respondents)
  4. American Fork (129 respondents)
  5. Payson (94 respondents)
  6. Saratoga Springs (88 respondents)
  7. Provo (77 respondents)
  8. Orem (31 respondents)

 

Results:

Figure 1. The bars show the cross-city mean and standard deviation for each category. The number above each bar shows the percentage of respondents in each category.

Figure 2. These pie charts show the results for each individual city. Saratoga Springs and Springville had two community Facebook pages each, so we averaged the results across the two polls. We combined the “Strongly” and “Generally” categories for a simpler visualization.

 

While we do not claim that these results are scientific, the degree of agreement across communities and the large sample size indicate they are robust. The results clearly conflict with LRS’s narrative of widespread community support, and we believe these findings reflect actual public opinion about the project better than LRS’s polling for four reasons:

 

  1. The question we asked was much more neutral than LRS’s (compare below)
  2. There are concerns about the independence and rigor of LRS’s poll. The percentage of support for their project is suspicious (66.6% is precisely 2/3rds), and the company who conducted the poll has a history of political attacks and manipulation of public opinion, such as claiming that Governor Cox supported abortions and open borders
  3. We provided links to LRS’s materials and critical information, allowing more thoughtful consideration of the proposition.
  4. The sample size is nearly double LRS’s.

 

Methods:

A group of five Utah County citizens (Kaye Nelson, Peggy Climenson, Jacob Holdaway, Ben Abbott, and Tod Robbins) posted the poll to the 10 Facebook pages. The exact wording differed slightly depending on the page, but the template we agreed on was as follows:

 

There has been a lot of talk about the Utah Lake island project, and I am trying to get a sense of how the public feels about it. The developers propose to dredge the lake, build islands covering 20% of the surface area, and build housing for up to 500,000 people on the lake to fund the project.

 

Here is their dredging application to the Army Corps for information supporting the project: https://www.spk.usace.army.mil/Missions/Regulatory/Utah-Lake-Restoration-Project/
And here is an overview of some of the independent concerns: https://conserveutahvalley.org/utah-lake-island-application-draws-questions-and-criticism-from-across-the-country/

 

If you’re willing, please indicate your level of support or opposition to the “Utah Lake Restoration Project.”

 

We provided five response options:

 

Strongly Support

Generally Support

Neutral

Generally Oppose

Strongly Oppose

 

For context, here is the survey question that LRS used in their poll:

 

The State of Utah, the EPA, and other federal agencies are currently evaluating a project to improve Utah Lake. The Utah Lake Restoration Project proposes making the lake deeper and cooler, restoring wetland vegetation and wildlife habitat, creating miles of new shorelines and beaches for recreation, and establishing waterfront communities.

The cost of these improvements would be in the billions. The sale of the property on some islands is proposed to fund the entire restoration effort without a tax increase. Based on that description, would you say that you generally OPPOSE or SUPPORT the Utah Lake Restoration Project?

 

While we don’t claim that our study is rigorous or flawless, it does suggest that the citizens of Utah County are not in overwhelming support of building islands on Utah Lake. We urge all policymakers and leaders to carefully research this issue before making any decisions regarding the future of Utah Lake.