Documents Investigate Vineyard Letter Supporting Lake Utah Restoration Project | News, Sports, Work

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Isaac Hale, Daily Herald file photo

Julie Fullmer poses for a portrait on Wednesday, December 13, 2017, at the Vineyard City Offices.

A bunch of registration requests originally submitted to ease the minds of two Utah County residents have only created more confusion, they say, in connection with a letter of support from Vineyard Chair Julie Fullmer for the Utah Lake Restoration Project application for funding through an Environmental Protection Agency program. .

These registration requests were made through the Government Records Access and Management Act, or GRAMA, a Utah state law that aims to enable public access to government records.

Applications for GRAMA were filed in January and February by Shawn Herring, a Vineyard resident, and Kaye Nelson, a Provo resident. The scope of these requirements required Vineyard City employees to provide all communication data between themselves and Lake Restoration Solutions employees between March 2015 and today.

A link to the public documents identified in response to these requests was sent to Herring and Nelson on 4 April. Herring is now sharing this connection with the public in hopes of promoting more transparency across the city.

The Utah Lake Restoration Project is a proposal to excavate Lake Utah and create islands to be used for estuaries, recreation, and shelter purposes. While initially receiving support from the Utah state government and lawmakers, the project has also received criticism from local councils and environmental groups.

The project is currently undergoing a federal process to determine the environmental impacts of the proposed actions. This process is likely to take at least two more years to complete.

According to Herring, his main reason for submitting the GRAMA request was to find a record of a public discussion about Vineyard’s letter of support for the Utah Lake Restoration Project’s application to the EPA WIFIA program, created through the Finance Act and Water Infrastructure Innovation 2014..

“The main purpose of the GRAMA request was just to see how that letter of support was born, who was involved in the decisions and how apparently no one knew about it until the public really found out at the beginning of the year. Said Herring. “The main reason for this is actually just to find out how he got to this point without knowing (anyone). “There should have been discussions that led to the writing of that letter.”

In a September 2020 letter to the EPA, Fullmer expressed strong support for the Utah Lake Restoration Project and misappropriated $ 5 million in lake restoration solutions to be used for eligible and approved costs associated with the project.

This letter was included with the Lake Restoration Solutions application for WIFIA assistance, as well as in the project proposal, which was developed by the US Army Corps of Engineers.

Documents provided by GRAMA’s request show that the letter of support was not publicly discussed at town council or Vineyard Rehabilitation Agency meetings, leading to concern Herring and those with whom he had shared the results of his GRAMA’s request.

“There was absolutely nothing in that GRAMA request that justified the need for that letter,” Herring said. “Who turned to whom to get that support?” Who approved the $ 5 million? Why did they think it was not necessary to involve the public? ”

According to Fullmer, the letter of support did not need to be discussed in public meetings as it was not intended as a final commitment of the Utah Lake Vineyard Restoration Project, but rather a letter in support of the project receiving WIFIA assistance and followed the discovery.

“They were looking to see what programs were being implemented that could be used as a match to be considered for the funds to start going through an application and permit process,” Fullmer said. “The funds were given to a landowner through the approval process of the redevelopment agency board that was working with the group. That group determined the $ 5 million project could be used as a match and wanted support for the pre-approved project to be shown as an improvement on the lake shore.

“We already had projects that would benefit the lake and could be included as part of the overall scope of the lake restoration project,” Jacob McHargue, former Vineyard town manager, said in an email to the Daily Herald. “We agreed that these projects were already capital projects approved for the vineyard redevelopment agency (RDA) and could be included as matching funds for the project. “In terms of cash donations from the city or RDA going to the lake restoration project, this has never been the case.”

These pre-approved projects consist of projects such as the Lake Promenade and the Geneva Park, which have been previously discussed in public meetings.

The letter states that the commitment of city funds for the Lake Utah Restoration Project will be subject to the approval of the final project financing plan, the approval of the documentation and proof of Vineyard commitment, as well as the approval of the final proposed WIFIA / RDA . funded projects. According to Fullmer, any of this future approval or recommendation would go through the RDA board before a final decision is reached.

Fullmer asserts that this letter is merely in support of the project discovery and that Vineyard has not taken a formal stand on the Utah Lake Restoration Project and will not do so until the project has completed its environmental impact review process, as defined by the National Environmental Policy Act.

“The funds have already been allocated by the redevelopment agency and they continue to move forward on our lake shore, promenade and clearing,” she said. “The city supported the discovery that the project is going through and the council and RDA have decided to wait and see the results of the study before taking a stand on the project itself.”

According to Fullmer, the city of Vineyard is in no way committed to the Lake Restoration Solutions or the Utah Lake Restoration Project at this time, but he is still committed to his lake shore improvement projects.

“I believe the lake restoration team is going through their discovery with the Army Corps and other environmental agencies,” she said. “The vineyard is in a waiting position and is moving forward with our projects on the lake shore.”

Fullmer hopes the results of GRAMA requests can help calm the minds of interested residents about the public process within the Vineyard.

“Hopefully, what comes out of this is that people recognize the massive support for the Walkara Way, the clean and clear process and the public contact we always offer as a community and our love for the community,” she said. “I believe there has been confusion in the media and people can be sure that we are following the processes and involving them in our decisions.”

Herring intends to appeal GRAMA’s request as he considers that the documents provided through the self-audit process by Vineyard City staff were incomplete. He must submit this request within 30 days from April 4 for it to be accepted by the municipality.

Herring believes what he sees as a lack of transparency regarding Vineyard’s letter of support for the Utah Lake Restoration Project’s WIFIA application is indicative of a larger communication issue within the city.

“If we have a question about something, we should really ask for a lot of information, or we should take action like a GRAMA request, a referendum or something,” Herring said. “Many cities will release information there, easy to find. If you have questions, they will answer the questions. You have to hunt and work for some answers in the town of Vresht. ”

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