ENVIRONMENT

Great Salt Lake’s southern arm reaches ‘significant’ level as spring rise slows down

May 15, 2024, 6:42 AM | Updated: 6:43 am

Southern arm of Great Salt Lake...

The Lucin Cutoff is seen in a flight over the Great Salt Lake on April 9. The Great Salt Lake's southern arm reached a "significant" level this week as its average reached 4,195 feet elevation. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

(Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

Editor’s note: This article is published through the Great Salt Lake Collaborative, a solutions journalism initiative that partners news, education and media organizations to help inform people about the plight of the Great Salt Lake.

SALT LAKE CITY — The average elevation of the Great Salt Lake’s southern arm reached 4,195 feet elevation this week after periodically flirting with the level over the past few weeks, but the state agency tasked with managing the lake said it believes the section will recede this summer.

Still, Great Salt Lake Commissioner Brian Steed said it’s an important moment in the ongoing efforts to protect the lake after it reached an all-time low two years ago. The Office of the Great Salt Lake Commissioner views 4,195 feet elevation as the beginning of the “transitionary zone,” where there are still adverse effects but not as dire as anything below 4,192 feet elevation.

“That’s a significant number,” he told members of the Utah Legislative Water Development Commission during its meeting on Tuesday. “There’s a substantial recovery from those lows in 2022, to where you see water in Farmington Bay as well as the Bear River Bay. You see that Fremont Island is an island again with water around (it).”

The state’s ultimate goal is to get the Great Salt Lake back to its minimum healthy level of 4,198 feet elevation, but Steed views 4,195 feet as the “next level up” toward that goal. The southern arm fell to 4,188.5 feet elevation by November 2022 and topped out at 4,194.1 feet elevation last year after the state’s record snowpack melted.

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Great Salt Lake’s southern arm reaches ‘significant’ level as spring rise slows down