Artificial islands as real estate? The murky finances behind the Utah Lake Restoration Project

Photo by Jim Mullhaupt

Being framed as a lake restoration project is apparently not the only sneaky aspect of the proposal for Utah Lake. A company comedically named “Lake Restoration Solutions” has proposed dredging Utah’s namesake lake to build and develop artificial islands. The company is the initiator of a lawsuit with a BYU assistant professor who spoke out against the proposal due to its impact on ongoing restoration efforts for Utah Lake. The Salt Lake Tribune obtained documents regarding the financials of the multi-billion-dollar project that reveal some questionable funding. 

Proponents of the project say real estate development is the way to pay for lake restoration. Although this has been touted as a privately funded project, the documents revealed that nearly $1 billion of the estimated $6.4 billion project would indeed be coming from state and federal assistance. The Tribune points out that “The federal and state loan guarantees sought by LRS could reduce the project’s borrowing costs and shift financial risks from investors to taxpayers.”

There has been a lot of money pledged, proposed and appropriated for a pipe dream project that could very well fail and has little to no scientific backing. “Some of these investments would be structured on debt securities issued by an unnamed municipal entity through an instrument known as “conduit financing,” according to a prospectus presented to potential investors. It says as much as $1 billion has already been pledged to purchase real estate that doesn’t, and might not ever, exist” the Tribune writes. This sounds more and more eerily similar to a failed Dubai project we shared an op-ed regarding.

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Read the full details of the funding here.