Skip to main content

Part 3: Local Government

A Tale of Two Mayors

While the people of Utah County sought to make their voices heard, their representatives were moving in very different directions.

On January 4th, 2022, the Provo City Council presented a resolution calling for the "science-based preservation and restoration of Utah Lake." Although they did not directly mention the island project by name, they had just heard a presentation from Ben, where he questioned the scientific and financial basis of LRS’ project. The Provo resolution emphasized the importance of enhancing the successful restoration efforts already taking place on the lake and ensuring that any future actions taken would not undermine those efforts. The resolution passed unanimously as a joint measure with the council and mayor signing on.

Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi (left), Vineyard Mayor Julie Fullmer (right)

Provo's Mayor Michelle Kaufusi was particularly familiar with Utah Lake as the chair of the Utah Lake Commission, the interlocal agency that had coordinated city, state, and federal work on Utah Lake since 2007. Mayor Kaufusi won the vote for chair narrowly in January, in a race against another mayor with a different vision for the lake.

Vineyard’s Mayor Julie Fullmer was an up-and-coming political figure in one of the fastest growing communities in the U.S. Her city was nestled on the eastern shore of Utah Lake, and her constituents had more to gain or lose regarding the lake than almost anyone else. She had a longstanding relationship with LRS and had even hired their lobbyist Jeff Hartley to represent Vineyard. Mayor Fullmer believed that the island project could be very beneficial to Vineyard, the lake, and the whole county. Consequently, she wrote a letter committing $5 million of city funds to support LRS’ 2020 application for a large federal loan. LRS was seeking nearly a billion dollars from the EPA to start construction on the islands. Mayor Fullmer and many other elected officials saw this as savvy business move that could accelerate what they viewed as an innovative public-private partnership.

The news about Mayor Fullmer’s financial support for LRS had just come out during the battle over the Utah Lake Commission. This created a stark contrast between conservative lake management on Mayor Kaufusi’s side and transformative lake management on Mayor Fullmer’s. It wasn’t at all clear which vision would carry the day. Indeed, just a few months later, May Fullmer won control of the newly create Utah Lake Authority—a kind of Utah Lake Commission version 2.0 with more funding and power.