Utah Republicans block resolution to create target level for the Great Salt Lake

Advocates for the lake said they were deeply disappointed.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Drought conditions have left many shallow ponds dry as they lay dormant in hopes of once again being filled for the benefits of shorebirds at Audubon’s Gillmor Sanctuary on the Great Salt Lake’s South Shore on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022, near the new state prison.

By Emma Keddington | Great Salt Lake Collaborative

A resolution to create a target level for the Great Salt Lake was voted down by a Senate committee despite widespread public support.

SCR006, sponsored by Nate Blouin, D- Salt Lake City, aimed to create a lake level goal of 4,198 feet, which, according to Blouin, is the lowest level the lake can possibly be to maintain a healthy ecosystem. Today, the lake sits at 4,190 feet. According to Blouin, the resolution would not be binding. However it would establish the Great Salt Lake water level as a government priority.

Just last week, the resolution was touted in a news conference as a piece of “historic” legislation.

Many members of the public tested in favor of the resolution Wednesday, Feb. 1, including lobbyists, activists, and concerned citizens. But the Senate Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment committee voted it down 4-2, with all Republican members voting against and the two Democrats voting for it.

During public comment, Lynn de Freitas, executive director of Friends of the Great Salt Lake, said that when it comes to the Great Salt Lake, it’s impossible to be satisfied with short term goals.

She expressed strong support for the bill, saying that “setting this elevation will help us achieve this goal.””There are some who think this goal is too lofty, too out of reach,” she said, “but I would disagree it’s not lofty enough.”

But Sen. Scott Sandall, R-Tremonton, said he worried the resolution would divert all government attention to the lake.

“We shouldn’t place one [issue] above another,” he said. “I’m really worried that setting a number on a terminal sailing lake like this will put a stake in the sand. It will do it in a way that’s not as holistic as we need to.”

Advocates for the lake were deeply disappointed.

“There is a disinterest by the Legislature to hold ourselves accountable as a state for a goal to restore the Great Salt Lake,” said Zach Frankel, Executive Director of the Utah Rivers Council. “By failing to establish this bill, this goal, not only have we not held ourselves accountable for restoring the Great Salt Lake, for keeping the Great Salt Lake, we won’t even have a conversation in the Legislature about whether we really want to save the Great Salt Lake or not.”

Ren Griffeth, a concerned citizen, said that she was incredibly disappointed by the results. “It’s incredibly disappointing to hear for the people who are supposed to represent the people in this valley to vote against it.”

Matthew Berry, a policy specialist at the Utah Rivers Council, expressed dismay at what according to him was a refusal to host a conversation about a non-binding resolution.

“From an individual that has been very negatively affected by harmful air, it’s pretty disgusting to see that these state legislators don’t seem to care about the individuals who are affected by the air quality issues,” he said.

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—and what can be done to make a difference before it is too late . Read all of our stories at greatsaltlakenews.org

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