ENVIRONMENT

Utah lawmakers advance bill to help Great Salt Lake in good water years

Feb 14, 2024, 4:00 PM

Great Salt Lake shown, a new bill would help the lake during good water years...

FILE: Great Salt Lake in August 2023. (Adam Small/KSL NewsRadio)

(Adam Small/KSL NewsRadio)

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah Senate committee voted unanimously to advance a bill that directs the Great Salt Lake Commissioner to establish a plan to help the lake during wet water years.

“We’ve got to be more proactive,” said Sen. Nate Blouin, D-Salt Lake City. “We’ve got to make sure we’re maximizing the best opportunities that we have to get water to the Great Salt Lake.”

Blouin is sponsoring SB 196 “Great Salt Lake Amendments.”

He told the Senate Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Committee Monday his bill simply gives direction to the Great Salt Lake Commissioner’s office. It does not give them new power or authority.

Wet, or good, water years are already a huge focus in the Great Salt Lake Commissioner’s strategic plan to save and preserve the lake over the next one to 30 years.

Deputy Great Salt Lake Commissioner Tim Davis presented the bill to the committee alongside Blouin Monday, emphasizing the importance of taking advantage of years where there’s more water to go around.

“That is really where we will make up the most ground to get the lake to a healthy level and sustain it,” Davis told the committee. “It’s also the time when there’s the least pain to other water users.”

A timely bill for the Great Salt Lake

The legislation is about as timely as it gets. The Great Salt Lake Basin is looking at a lot of favorable factors to start 2024.

Despite the fact the Great Salt Lake is still about five feet shy of its optimum healthy level of 4,198 feet above sea level, the current statewide snowpack is in great shape.

Utah’s reservoir levels are also above average, some are even above 90% full. Plus, Utah’s soil moisture is also in good shape, meaning, less snow will get absorbed into the ground when spring runoff begins in April.

The Great Salt Lake is already benefitting from Utah Lake being about as full as it can be. Last week, officials opened its control gates in Saratoga Springs to release water into the Jordan River, which runs to the Great Salt Lake.

Davis told the committee that the lake is benefitting from water being released in the Weber Basin.

There’s no telling how much water exactly will get to the Great Salt Lake or how much its waters will rise before summer, but managers are hoping for the best.

Blouin’s bill now heads to the full Senate for a vote. It would then need approval from the Utah House and Gov. Spencer Cox to take effect.

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Utah lawmakers advance bill to help Great Salt Lake in good water years