SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4) — The Great Salt Lake took center stage at the Wallace Stegner Center 28th Annual Symposium at The University of Utah.

The symposium came to a close Friday with three keynote speakers: Governor Spencer Cox (R-UT), Speaker Brad Wilson (R-Kaysville), and Bishop Christopher Wadell from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.   

“I promise you we are going to save the Great Salt Lake,” Governor Cox told the audience. In his speech, it was clear that the governor is optimistic about the future of the lake after the close of this legislative session.   

“Legislative leadership and the executive branch are committed to this,” he stated. “This is our top priority.”  

He expressed frustration with the pushback from this session, singling out the scientific community and the left. He said people should be critical of their lawmakers, but they should also be cautious with their criticism. He emphasized that victories need to be celebrated.   

“One billion dollars in two years in water investment in this state,” Governor Cox said. “I never thought in my lifetime we’d see that kind of investment from a legislature.” That was one of the few victories he touched on during his speech. He added: “And we should take those victories because incremental change is the only way to get change. Paradyme change takes time.” 

He said another victory is the passing of a bill that establishes a lake commissioner. He explained that the commissioner “will have the ability to work with and even override other departments and agencies.”  

Speaker Brad Wilson agreed that this bill is a win for the lake. He said it may have been the most influential (regarding GSL) that was passed this session. “We’ve got amazing work being done by a dozen different state agencies that all touch and impact the lake. This will increase the collaboration and coordination between all those different offices.”  

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently donated 5,700 water shares to the state for the lake. Bishop W. Christopher Waddell, First Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, was at the symposium and said the work of the Church is not done. “We’re also conducting an evaluation to identify other church-owned water assets that can feasibly be delivered to the Great Salt Lake.”  

Bishop Waddell said The Church of Latter-day Saints is actively updating water systems at its meeting houses. He added that from 2018 through 2022, the Church saved 40 million gallons of water annually at church headquarters.