Lawmakers consider action to save Great Salt Lake


SALT LAKE CITY – House Speaker Brad Wilson will bring together lawmakers and other government officials next week at a summit on the preservation and protection of the Great Salt Lake.

Huge saltwater lake, which is a huge contributor to northern Utah’s ecosystem, has reached an all-time high. It is now 11 feet below what scientists think it should be and dust storms could cause problems at Front Wasatch. President Wilson, R-Kaysville, whose district includes much of the lake, has been pushing for efforts to preserve and protect it. A series of bills will be introduced during the next legislative session.

“It’s a bit of a canary in the coal mine,” said Rep. Joel Ferry, R-Brigham City. “When we see Great Salt Lake reaching record levels this year and we are looking at the impact that will have on our snowpack, which is our water source for next year.”

Rep. Ferry introduced Bill 33, which expands the use of “restricted flow” by allowing water rights holders to “lease” water that could eventually go into the Great Salt Lake.

“If a farmer has a right to water and recognizes that it will be a drought year, perhaps rather than using all the flow that has been given to him or that he has the right to use.” ? He can cut it down a bit and a conservation group or the state or the federal government, whoever it is, can pay it off and say, “Hey, we want so many acre-feet of your water to stay in the creek.” and it will walk through the rivers and head towards the Great Salt Lake, ”he told FOX 13 on Wednesday.

Because it is a terminal basin, the water that flows into the Grand Lac Salé is technically considered “wasted”. which added to the pressure of using more water upstream. A legislator is considering changing this legal definition to help the lake.

Environmental groups have supported the concept of restricted flow and other bills underway to help the lake. But Denise Cartwright, founder of Save Our Great Salt Lake, said she believes more can be done.

“What I see are a lot of small steps, while what we need right now are huge giant steps if we are to save the Great Salt Lake,” she said in a statement. interview with FOX 13. “The Great Salt Lake needs two million acre-feet of water permanently protected annually.

Representative Ferry said legislation like this is a start to help protect the lake. Water conservation bills are also being introduced to the legislature for things like agricultural optimization (using new technologies to grow crops with less water).

“I am really encouraged by the discussions,” he said. “I believe it’s not too late for us to make a difference and do things that will not only save the Great Salt Lake, but also our way of life.”

Next week, President Wilson to bring together policymakers, scientists and lawmakers to discuss policies to protect the lake. But a copy of the panelists and speakers provided to FOX 13 ahead of the speakers summit shows that environmental and farm groups will not be making any presentations to lawmakers, although a number of them, including Friends of the Great Salt Lake , the Nature Conservancy, the Great Salt Lake Institute and the Utah Waterfowl Association will be in attendance and are listed as event partners. Likewise, farm groups like the Utah Farm Bureau are also not involved in the presentations. Rep. Ferry is a farmer in his day job and will provide an overview of his pending invoice.

Based on discussions on the topic, the summit appears to be heavily focused on politics and what Utah lawmakers can do to protect the Great Salt Lake. Representatives from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Electricity will give a presentation on the uplifting tale of Owens Lake, which was drained to provide water to California and was left in a toxic dust bowl .

The list of summit presenters also includes lawmakers, University of Utah climatologists, the chair of the Great Salt Lake Advisory Council, local water conservation districts, Utah Forestry Division , Fire & State Lands and the Utah Water Division. Resources.

A single environmental group – the Audubon company – leads a panel. Marcelle Shoop, National Salt Lakes Program Manager at the Audubon Society, will oversee a roundtable on water conservation and water planning in the Great Salt Lake. The Audubon company recently partnered with other environmental groups and Rio Tinto Kennecott to secure water use rights for the lake itself.

“Many wanted to be involved in this event and we did our best to include everyone. With the emphasis on organizing an informational event and not an advocacy event, we invited researchers and scientists who study the data in a professional manner, public policy experts who administer the policies that actually govern the lake and environmental groups, ”President Wilson’s office told FOX 13 in a statement. “In addition to the speakers on the agenda, more than a dozen groups and organizations will set up booths to mingle with attendees and present in this form.”

Cartwright said she would like to see more public comment at the president’s summit. The president’s office said the summit was by invitation, but will stream it for the public to view online.

Save Our Great Salt Lake is planning a rally on January 15 at the Utah State Capitol to call on the legislature to take more action to protect Great Salt Lake.

“If the lake dries up, it will affect everyone who lives along the Wasatch Front. It will affect the air quality, it will affect the millions of migratory birds that depend on the lake,” Cartwright said. “We don’t have time to focus on the small steps and the marketing talk. We need action and we need serious action.”

View the agenda for the President’s Summit on Great Salt Lake here: