SALT LAKE CITY — Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson took lawmakers and state officials on a boat tour of the Great Salt Lake, drawing attention to the urgency of its decline.
“It’s hard to appreciate how low it is when you haven’t seen it,” she said in a subsequent interview with FOX 13 News.
They left from an almost empty marina. Most of the sailboats have been removed because the water levels are so low. The boats headed for Antelope Island, then Stansbury Island. Along the way, representatives from the Utah Department of Natural Resources answered questions about the Great Salt Lake and its importance to the entire northern Utah ecosystem and what a lake is. in decline means for the future of the state.
“I think one of the things that impressed me the most today is how much the Great Salt Lake impacts everything we do in Utah,” Lieutenant Governor Henderson said. “To our water, to the quality of our air, to our quality of life. This is something we haven’t talked about enough.
The lake has dropped 11 feet since it was first measured in the 1800s. Last year it hit an all-time low. This year, the Great Salt Lake is expected to fall to an all-new all-time low.said Laura Vernon, Great Salt Lake coordinator for the Utah State Division of Forests, Fires and Lands.
“We think the lake has peaked right now at around 4191.0,” she told FOX 13 News. “We think he’s going to go down another two feet.”
The shrinking of the Great Salt Lake has been attributed to a number of issues, including the diversion of water for development and the impacts of climate change. The decline of the lake threatens Utah’s snowpack, the ecosystem of millions of migratory birds, and billions in economic damage due to the loss of industry. The exposed lake bed contains arsenic, which can lead to toxic dust storms blowing into populated areas.
The Utah State Legislature introduced a number of bills this year in an attempt to protect the Great Salt Lake. Future water development plans need to consider the impact on the lake, there is more emphasis on water conservation in development and agricultural use. House Speaker Brad Wilson personally introduced a bill to spend $40 million trying to get more water into the lake and lawmakers took an aerial tour during the session to see the decline of the lake. For many, it was the first time they had seen him in years.
“I think the Legislature is going to step up,” said Rep. Casey Snider, R-Paradise, who was on tour.
Rep. Snider acknowledged a new emergency, but said people are more aware of the importance of the Great Salt Lake. He said he expects lawmakers on Capitol Hill, Utah, to pass more laws to protect him.
“I think so, but I also think that’s what’s left to do, that’s something we can handle,” he said. “Yes, it’s bad. Yes, it’s dark. But now we’re talking about it.”
Environmental groups and state officials agree that the Great Salt Lake has not passed a point of no return. Vernon said increased awareness of the situation facing the Great Salt Lake helps. She said Utahns taking action to conserve water would also help.
“But then, from a broader perspective, to encourage cities and counties, water conservation districts, agriculture users to think about how they use and use water more wisely, because we need the water to get here,” she said.