By Cassidy Hansen
Capital West News
SALT LAKE CITY — Members of a Senate committee will wait until Monday before they decide the fate of a controversial bill that changes access rules to Bear Lake, including allowing travel along the lake’s shore.
To say the bill, HB140, is controversial is an understatement. The bill has drawn packed hearings and both Senate and House committees, which have extended public comment over a couple of days. The original bill has been modified three times and now carries the title — third substitute.
The Senate Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee is scheduled to take up the bill Monday. If it passes, it would then go to the full Senate for debate and a vote.
Rep. Curt Webb, R-Logan, said, “I’ve never carried a bill that generated so much energy and this much misinformation.”
The most controversial topic of the bill is if “parallel travel” or shoreline travel should be allowed, and how vehicles can travel. Currently, parallel travel is not allowed on the shore of Bear Lake and the only vehicles launching boats are allowed on the beach.
The parallel travel rule means that individuals can only access the lake driving perpendicular or at an angle from either the 10 public access points designed or through private land entrances. Those solely using vehicles to transport people and supplies to the beach are currently prohibited.
“Unless you have equality of access to the public, you do not have equality. Public access to the beach is limited by all the stuff you can carry on foot. I believes that parallel travel is essential to equal access of the lake. . . We are locking our own people out” said Webb, who is concerned last year’s changes to the law unintentionally created private beaches.
Currently, the proposed bill proposes that vehicles would be able to drive a half mile at the speed of 10 mph along the beach to deliver individuals and items. Vehicles couldn’t park on the beach, but would have to return to an access point and find designated off-shore parking.
Rick Jensen, a property owner on the lake, said he was concerned about the quality of the bill.
“We think this bill is unenforceable because are you going to put a sign that says, ‘Hey this is the half mile, you can’t go by here?’ Who is going to put up the bathrooms so people can go to the bathroom as they trek all over the lake?” he said.
However, it is important to note, that not all property owners in the Bear Lake area are against parallel travel. Candace Daly, who is a resident of Garden City, described how she had spent the 2014 summer taking pictures of the access that the public has of the beach to show to the legislature.
Daly claimed, “If you are not a beach front property owner, it is very hard to get down there. The public needs to have some parallel access.”
Other citizens voiced their concerns about various safety issues regarding parallel travel. Specifically, those who are in favor of parallel travel are concerned about elderly individuals and family members with physical needs being able to safely get to the beach and enjoy the lake. On the other hand, individuals who oppose parallel travel are concerned about children getting hit by vehicles, and that people may get stuck in marshy areas.
Another part of the bill includes allowing all individuals who have public access the opportunity to obtain a license to launch their boats into Bear Lake and to receive invasive species education. Also, the substituted bill better defines the term “vessel.”
“Well a vessel is anything that conveys people in the water. Tubes, paddleboards, kayaks, anything, would have required a permit to launch. The permit to launch is only required for motor boats which has a definition in the code,” Webb said.
Ultimately, the Senate committee did not seem prepared to make a decision regarding the fate of HB140-Third Substitute in the allotted time because of several people were unable to testify.