Plans to protect the future of the Great Salt Lake

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) – After one of the driest winters on record, several state agencies are now taking a closer look at the future of the Great 
Salt Lake.

At the beginning of this spring, the Great Salt Lake was within inches of the historic low. The lakes’ elevation was just 4,193 feet. The low lake level was one of the reasons the Great Salt Lake Integrated Water Resource Management Model was created.

Laura Vernon with DNR Division of Forestry, Fire, and State Land explained, “We take a bunch of parameters like land use, or changes in diversions and we plug them in to a model and then you can say, ‘Okay based on if we’re going to deplete X amount of acre feet of water from the Bear River every year, how would that result in changes to the Great Salt Lake?'”

How much would a project like that deplete the Great Salt Lake, and how would that change the salinity levels in the lake? Too much salt means less brine shrimp and less brine shrimp means less food for migratory birds that come from all over the world to use the lake as their temporary home

Vernon said, “So, there’s a unique ecosystem on the Great Salt Lake and its our charge to maintain that ecosystem, to manage it sustainably.”

Not only does the state have to worry about the lake’s unique ecosystem, but if the Great Salt Lake dried up it would also have a big impact on the state’s economy. “It’s a multi-million dollar industry every year, the brine shrimp harvesting also the mineral resource extraction, you know extracting for salt, for potash” explained Vernon. “It’s millions of dollars each year that the state benefits.”

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