ENVIRONMENT

‘On my watch we are not allowing the lake to go dry,’ Utah’s governor says of Great Salt Lake

Jan 13, 2023, 12:00 PM

Gov. Spencer Cox is pictured....

Gov. Spencer Cox speaks at the PBS Utah Governor’s Monthly News Conference at the Eccles Broadcast Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday, June 16, 2022. Cox issued an apology last week after insulting members of Congress during a monthly news conference earlier this month. (Laura Seitz/Deseret News)

(Laura Seitz/Deseret News)

This article is published through The Great Salt Lake Collaborative: A Solutions Journalism Initiative, a partnership of news, education and media organizations that aims to inform readers about the Great Salt Lake.

SALT LAKE CITY –Governor Spencer Cox said he will not let the Great Salt Lake go dry, pledging new measures to prop it up.

“I’m telling people: On my watch we are not allowing the lake to go dry. We will do whatever it takes to make sure that doesn’t happen,” he said Wednesday in an interview with FOX 13 News about his priorities for the upcoming legislative session.

The governor said water conservation and the Great Salt Lake are among his top priorities to tackle with lawmakers in the 2023 legislative session that begins next week. He is supporting bills and spending around water conservation measures. As part of his proposed $28 billion budget, Gov. Cox would like to see incentives offered to get agriculture producers — the state’s top water user — to switch to new technologies that allow them to grow crops with less water. He has also proposed money to pay farmers not to grow crops and let the water go downstream, to purchase water rights for the lake itself and expanding cloud seeding.

A recent report by dozens of scientists and conservationists warned the Great Salt Lake’s decline has accelerated and the light might dry up within five years without emergency action.

Pressed on what measures can actually get water into the Great Salt Lake, Gov. Cox said you will see more from Capitol Hill soon.

“You will see additional water going into the lake. You’re literally going to see releases from other reservoir systems into the lake. It’s never happened before,” he said. “You’re going to see water rights going to the lake.”

The Great Salt Lake is at its lowest point in recorded history, a result of water diversion, a changing climate and Utah’s mega-drought. It presents an ecological catastrophe for northern Utah with toxic dust storms, reduced snowpack, impacts to wildlife and public health and a multi-billion hit to the state’s economy. While the state has seen significant snowpack this winter, the governor cautioned there was a ways to go to refilling the lake. Gov. Cox previously issued an executive order blocking any new water diversions to help the Great Salt Lake.

The governor said public support for saving the Great Salt Lake has been “tremendous.” He said there is widespread legislative support for reversing the lake’s declines. House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, has personally championed bills to help the Great Salt Lake.

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‘On my watch we are not allowing the lake to go dry,’ Utah’s governor says of Great Salt Lake