Great Salt Lake

Judy Fahys / KUER News

Drought is shrinking the Great Salt Lake. So, boat owners enlisted a big crane this week to haul their boats out of the water.

Brad Silver’s bonds with the Great Salt Lake go deep. His family actually built the Great Salt Lake Marina in the 1960s, and his bedroom was a boat here when he was a teen. He can’t recall the last time the lake was this low -- he was just a tot. But lately the bottom of his sailboat’s been digging into the floor of the harbor where so many family adventures began.

ESRI Map Service / Utah Division of Water Quality

  The railroad causeway across the Great Salt Lake was built in 1959, and since then it’s permanently altered the lake’s natural water flow.  Making changes to it could have unanticipated consequences for the lake environment.  But Union Pacific Railroad officials say they have to do something now or it won’t be safe to run trains across the lake.

NASA - International Space Station

  The Union Pacific Railroad is planning to start repair work on its causeway across the Great Salt Lake.  But it means closing off the culverts that allow water to pass between the north and south arms of the lake. 

The causeway was built in the 1950’s, cutting off much of the natural flow between the two arms of the lake.  As a result, the north arm is much saltier and about a foot lower in elevation than the south arm.

Dan Bammes

  The world market for potash took a hit last week when a Russian marketing consortium fell apart.  That could cause some difficulty for companies doing business in Utah.

Potash is used for fertilizer, and it was selling in the range of $400 a ton last week when a big producer in Russia said it would quit working with its marketing group and increase its output.  That led some traders to predict the price could drop below $300 a ton.

The public turns out in droves to discuss the Sugar House Streetcar, Great Salt Lake Minerals is scaling back their expansion plans, and the Medicaid Community Workgroup meets at the capitol for the first time.

Dan Bammes

  Great Salt Lake Minerals is scaling back its expansion plans along the eastern and western shores of the lake – and environmentalists are applauding.  

In 2009, Great Salt Lake Minerals asked the Army Corps of Engineers to approve a 91-thousand acre expansion of its evaporation ponds.  Today it submitted a new application asking for just 52-thousand acres.  Lynn DeFreitas with Friends of the Great Salt Lake says the new plan avoids some critical wildlife habitat.

Utah’s Attorney General calls for an investigation into the bribery allegations brought against him, KUER’s Bob Nelson goes shrimping on the Great Salt Lake, and Utah schools see the lowest participation in the free breakfast program in the nation.

Utah Department of Natural Resources / Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

The Great Salt Lake occasionally smells strange during the summer and then there’s the “lake effect” in the winter. But within the waters of North America's most salty lake lies a unique variety of brine shrimp species that has spawned a rare public/private partnership between the Utah Department of Natural Resources and more than a dozen businesses.

Sailboat on the Great Salt Lake
Dan Bammes

The Utah Division of Water Quality has begun a long-term project to set new pollution standards for the Great Salt Lake.  The lake contains significant levels of toxic pollutants such as arsenic, lead, selenium and mercury, among other things.  Jeff Ostermiller, the chief of the Water Quality Management Section at the division, says some of that comes from industries surrounding the lake.  But he says there are many other sources as well, including urban runoff from streets along the Wasatch Front.