The first peoples in Utah were the Fremont and the Anasazi and then later the Northern Shoshone, Goshute, Bannock, Paiute, and Ute peoples. Like the herds they followed for food, they migrated throughout the state during all types of weather. White explorers encountered these tribes throughout the 1700-1800’s. Fur trappers were the first whites to have discovered Utah Lake and in the mid-1800’s Mormons began using and settling around it’s east and west shores. Historians report that Brigham Young first sent a fishing party to the lake to see what species inhabited the water and then in 1850 established a permanent settlement near its shores named ‘Fort Utah’ (in honor of the Utes living there), then later ‘Fort Provo’ (after the well-known French-Canadian trapper, Etienne Proveau who first saw the lake in 1825).
Utah Lake is a freshwater lake on the west side of I-15 in Utah County, about thirty miles long and seven-ten miles wide. Over the years it has been known as Ashley Lake, Little Uta Lake, Utaw (correct spelling) Lake, and Laguna de Nuestra Senora de la Merced de Timpanogotiz. The most important use of the lake has always been to water crops and provide irrigation, and in the 1800’s water users wanted to make sure there was enough water in the lake for late season crop irrigation. In 1884-1885 Mormons got together and effectively set the level of the lake to control water use. Fast forward sixty some odd years and Utah Valley saw the creation of a $200 million steel plant financed by the federal government to make sure that there would be enough steel to meet the military needs for supply. The plant opened in 1944, three years after the Japanese attached Hawaii. The plant operated for two years as a government facility and then was sold to U.S Steel for $47.5 million. It closed in 2001, the blast furnaces used to melt the product were demolished in 2005 and then in 2017 the master-planned community of ‘Vineyard’ was announced. In 2020 the new city was the fastest growing place in America, which had a growth rate of 10,687%.
Now developers have produced a grand plan to built islands in the lake for a mixed use of housing and businesses. The legislature is looking at a myriad of bills about water use and Utah Lake, including one to create an agency to oversee the management of Utah Lake. While elected officials try to figure out how to save on water use during this decade’s long drought and to get more water to the endangered Great Salt Lake, developers (“Lake Restoration Solutions”) want to dredge the bottom of the lake so they can build thirty-four islands. They would get out sludge made up of decades of sewer and industrial waste at the bottom which could turn the notorious white, murky waters of Utah Lake into something cleaner. Readings throughout the summer of water quality there are often bad enough to close beaches. The Utah Legislature ends March 4th.