SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – The Great Salt Lake Recovery Act, which aims at saving the shrinking Great Salt Lake, passed through the U.S. Senate Thursday morning.
The legislation was initially proposed by Utah Senator Mitt Romney, while Utah Representatives Chris Stewart, Burgess Owens, and John Curtis lead the companion legislation in the House.
Officials say it will do the following to build on the state’s ongoing efforts to save the Great Salt Lake as Utah battles a historic drought:
- Authorizing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to carry out a program to monitor and assess the water availability and conditions of saline lakes in the Great Basin, including the Great Salt Lake, in order to help inform management and conservation activities for these ecosystems. The Corps will coordinate with relevant federal and state agencies, tribes, local governments, and nonprofits to implement the program. The bill authorizes $10,000,000 for this program.
- Authorizing a feasibility study on addressing drought conditions in the Great Salt Lake, which may include an identification of any potential technologies—including pipelines, coastal desalination plants, and canal reinforcement—capable of redirecting water sources and necessary permitting to redirect water sources across state borders.
Earlier this month, the lake reached its lowest water levels on record, dropping to 4190.1 feet. This broke the previous record low of 4190.3 feet in October 2021
To make matters even worse, experts say that based on historic data, these levels are likely to fall even further until fall or early winter when more moisture arrives.
So why does this matter to Utahns? This is more than just about the lake losing water.
With every decrease of one foot in the level of the Great Salt Lake, 150 square miles of lake bed is exposed.
The Great Salt Lake has naturally occurring toxins, as well as man-made toxins caused by pollution. When the lake bed is exposed, contaminants can cause poor air quality due to toxic chemicals being openly exposed.
In June, the New York Times warned of an “environmental nuclear bomb” in a piece about the shrinking of the Great Salt Lake.
Following the passing of the legislation, Senator Romney and Representatives Stewart, Owens, and Curtis released the following statement to ABC4:
“The rest of the country is now understanding the widespread repercussions of a diminished Great Salt Lake. We must be willing to do whatever is necessary to make sure we preserve this iconic body of water. Today’s passage of our Great Salt Lake Recovery Act highlights the sense of urgency that is needed if we are going to preserve and protect this critical body of water for many generations to come. We are proud that our legislation complements and elevates the work already being done by Speaker Brad Wilson and the State of Utah to develop a permanent solution to save our Great Salt Lake, and we urge the House to take it up so we can get it to the President’s desk and signed into law without delay.”