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Great Salt Lake measure passes unanimously in US Senate, headed to House

By Tim Vandenack - | Dec 1, 2022
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The Great Salt Lake, photographed from Antelope Island on April 23, 2022.
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The Great Salt Lake, photographed from Antelope Island on April 23, 2022.
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The Great Salt Lake, photographed from Antelope Island on April 23, 2022.
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The Great Salt Lake, photographed from Antelope Island on April 23, 2022.

WASHINGTON — Support for the Great Salt Lake is a bipartisan thing.

The U.S. Senate unanimously approved a measure championed by U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney and U.S. Rep. Blake Moore that calls for an assessment of the Great Salt Lake and other saline lake ecosystems in the Western United States. The Saline Lake Ecosystems in the Great Basin States Program Act, meant to foster creation of plans to combat declining water levels in the Great Salt Lake and other water bodies, now goes to the House for consideration.

“With the Great Salt Lake currently at the lowest levels ever recorded, we must do whatever is necessary to save it,” Romney, a GOPer, said in a statement on Thursday. The measure — spurred in part by the dramatic decline in the water level of the Great Salt Lake — passed in the Senate by unanimous consent on Wednesday.

If approved, the legislation, Romney said, would help “establish a scientific foundation and ongoing monitoring system” to aid in managing and conserving threatened lakes in the focus area, the Great Basin. The Great Basin covers western Utah, including the Great Salt Lake, as well as much of Nevada and parts of California, Oregon and Idaho.

A similar measure sponsored by Moore, who represents Northern Utah, passed in the House last July. A new unified version of the measure was subsequently put forward, the measure approved on Wednesday, and it now faces action in the House.

“The Great Salt Lake and other saline lakes in the West are critical to our environment and industries. It is imperative that we take steps to preserve these precious resources, and I am grateful the Senate chose to support these efforts,” Moore said in a statement. He’ll work “tirelessly” to advance it in the House, he added.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox offered laudatory words. The measure would “help fill gaps in science around hydrology, integrate existing work being done on water quality and assess future water needs. This legislation could be a key to ensuring the viability of the Great Salt Lake far into the future,” he said.

U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, an Oregon Democrat and co-sponsor of the measure in the Senate, stressed the import of getting data to aid in lake conservation efforts. The U.S. Geological Survey, working with other agencies, would oversee the studies envisioned in the legislation.

“With Senate passage of this bipartisan bill, we are one step closer to securing the studies and science needed to put long-term plans into action to ensure our saline lakes ecosystems can thrive for generations to come,” Merkley said.

U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman, a California Democrat, is the measure’s co-sponsor in the House, along with Moore. Utah’s other U.S. representatives, Chris Stewart, John Curtis and Burgess Owns, also back it.

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