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Can the Great Salt Lake be saved? Partnership will explore solutions

By Staff | Mar 7, 2022

BENJAMIN ZACK, Standard-Examiner file photo

Cara Wright, 6, fishes for brine shrimp along the beach at Antelope Island State Park with help from Karen Roberson on Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015. Roberson, a park ranger aide, put on a "beach basics" class to teach visitors about the Great Salt Lake.

Last summer, the water level of the Great Salt Lake was measured at its lowest point on record, dating to at least 1875, beating the previous mark set in 1963.

That dubious milestone was not reached overnight. Rather, it was the culmination of years of negative forces arrayed against it, some naturally occurring and others made worse by man.

The challenges facing the lake are numerous — drought, climate change and major population growth — and made more immediate by the iconic water body’s pronounced diminishment.

For that reason, the Standard-Examiner is partnering with other news, education and media organizations in the state to better inform and engage with the public as we examine these issues, with an aim to explore possible solutions.

Jointly named the Great Salt Lake Collaborative, we will spend up to the next two years diving into how the lake reached this point and what can be done to make a difference before it is too late.

This analysis will come in the form of rigorous reporting, innovative storytelling and unique community outreach that focuses on how agencies and people are responding to the challenges facing the lake.

Along with the Standard-Examiner, the Great Salt Lake Collaborative is made up of Amplify Utah, the Deseret News, Fox 13, the Great Salt Lake Institute at Westminster College, KCPW, KRCL, KSL.com, KSL-TV, KSL NewsRadio, KUER, the Salt Lake City Public Library, Salt Lake Community College’s Community Writing Center, the Salt Lake Tribune, The West View, the Utah Film Center, Utah Public Radio and Utah State University.

This collaborative is generously funded through a grant from the Knight Foundation via the Solutions Journalism Network’s Local Media Project, whose goal is to strengthen and reinvigorate local media ecosystems.

Even though the Great Salt Lake isn’t alone among Utah’s vast bodies of water in exhibiting striking signs of depletion or deterioration, its status as a cultural, ecological, recreational and economic landmark raises its significance.

Fed by the Bear, Weber and Jordan rivers, our state capital’s namesake directly helps provide over 7,700 jobs and contribute $1.3 million to Utah’s economy annually, indirectly bolsters our world-famous ski industry through the occurrence of lake-effect snowfall and is a critical habitat for over 10 million migrating birds, according to the Great Salt Lake Advisory Council.

Its diminishment has been the focus of the Utah Legislature this year, with a proposal put forward to invest $40 million in a trust that would look at ways to preserve and restore the lake for future generations.

As we members of the Great Salt Lake Collaborative work toward that same goal, we will provide multiple opportunities for the public to get involved, starting with a request to share your thoughts via our Great Salt Lake Solutions Survey, accessible at https://tinyurl.com/2w4vtp5b.

We hope you will take time to provide input, which will guide us through this process.


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