Great Salt Lake levels still up from last year, north arm still near record lows

Sep 19, 2023, 9:05 AM | Updated: Sep 20, 2023, 11:35 am

The railroad causeway is breached on the Great Salt Lake on Wednesday. (Photo: Jeffrey D. Allred, D...

The railroad causeway is breached on the Great Salt Lake on Wednesday. (Photo: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

(Photo: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

Toxic dust from the Great Salt Lake could cost taxpayers millions


SALT LAKE CITY— The Great Salt Lake got an incredible boost from the record water year from fall 2022 to spring 2023. The south arm of the lake went up five and a half feet after hitting an all-time record low in fall 2022.

Deputy Director of the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands, Ben Stireman told KSL NewsRadio it has since dropped by 1.8 feet, which is still much higher than the previous record low.

However, the same can’t be said for the north arm of the lake, which is only six inches higher than its record low levels. 

The lake is divided by the Union Pacific Causeway that runs east and west from Promontory Point. The south arm runs parallel from about Ogden to Salt Lake City and Tooele. The north arm only encompasses the far northwest portion of the lake in the remote Utah desert.

The north arm has very little fresh water inflows, meaning most fluctuations come when water travels through the Causeway.

Stireman said while Bear River Bay is north of the Causeway, it’s considered part of the South arm because of it’s major freshwater inflows can be sent right through the berm on the Causeway.

Reasons to build up the south arm

Stireman said they are focused on building up the South arm for a few reasons. The biggest being the north arm which is is so salty it doesn’t support the same ecosystem the south arm does.

“Microbialites, that help support our brine flies and brine shrimp, they’re all primarily located in the south arm,” Stireman said.

The south arm also borders most of the Wasatch Front’s population, so any concerns with toxic lakebed dust being blown around come from there. Officials pinpoint Farmington and Bear River Bays as two of the biggest dust spots.

Additionally, the salt in the north arm created a natural crust or barrier to the toxic lakebed in that section of the lake, something Farmington and Bear River Bay have much less of since they are fed by freshwater rivers.

Stireman said when the big winter started pouring freshwater into Great Salt Lake, they wanted to first make sure they reduced salinity in the south arm, which they did. Utah Gov. Spencer Cox ordered officials to open the berm on the Causeway in early 2023, which played a role in this.

Looking forward

According to Stireman, the focus remains on conservation with winter just around the corner. Weather experts predict another strong water year going into 2024, which is welcome news to managers of Great Salt Lake, who say the lake is still far from where it needs to be.

Coming out of the big winter, officials said the lake still needed about five feet to reach what are considered healthy levels. After summer evaporation, that need has increased to between six and seven feet.

For now, officials are still looking for every solution they can to save the lake. “It’s all hands on deck,” Stireman said.


We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.


Rep John Curtis promises to investigate stolen COVID relief money...

Mark Jones

Rep. Curtis reintroduces government shutdown bill

Rep. John Curtis has introduced a bill that would prevent members of Congress from being paid if there is a governement shutdown.

23 minutes ago

Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson is pictured speaking. House Speaker Brad Wilson has filed as a candi...

Larry D. Curtis

Brad Wilson will seek vacant Senate seat after Mitt Romney’s term ends

Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson announced Wednesday that he will run for the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah.

2 hours ago

West Valley City police say a suspect in connection to a fatal shooting on Sept. 15 is in custody. ...

Mark Jones

Suspect in West Valley City fatal shooting in custody

A suspect wanted in connection to a Sept. 15 fatal shooting in West Valley City has been arrested, according to West Valley City police.

2 hours ago

The Salt Lake City Police Department (SLCPD) requested help identifying a suspect who appears to ha...

Derrick Jones

SLCPD seeks help identifying person who left suspicious package downtown.

Police said the package was left near 20 West 200 South on Monday, Sept. 25, 2023.

3 hours ago

Image of a box trailer, the site of a fire in Millcreek that killed a man on Tuesday night....

Mark Jones

Man dies in Millcreek fire, box trailer used as housing destroyed

A man in his 60s died in a fire in Millcreek Tuesday night. Unified fire said the structure that burned was being used as temporary housing.

3 hours ago

Rep John Curtis promises to investigate stolen COVID relief money...

Lindsay Aerts

List of possibile candidates for a U.S. Senate run in Utah is growing

Rep. Chris Stewart is the latest to announce he's interested in running for the U.S. Senate in Utah.

4 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

Human hand holding a protest banner stop vaping message over a crowded street background....

Prosperous Utah Communities

Utah’s Battle to Protect Youth from Vaping Epidemic Faces New Threat as Proposed Rule Threatens Progress

Utah's strict standards of nicotine levels in vaping products are at risk, increasing health hazards associated with use. Read more about how you can advocate for a better future for Utah's youth.

Aerial photo of Bear Lake shoreline with canopies and people camped out on the beach...

Visit Bear Lake

Last-Minute Summer Vacation Planning? Check Out Bear Lake!

Bear Lake is the perfect getaway if you are last-minute summer vacation planning. Enjoy activities with your whole family at this iconic lake.

close up of rose marvel saliva blooms in purple...

Shannon Cavalero

Drought Tolerant Perennials for Utah

The best drought tolerant plants for Utah can handle high elevations, alkaline soils, excessive exposure to wind, and use of secondary water.

Great Salt Lake levels still up from last year, north arm still near record lows