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Utah lawmakers want $10 million in federal funds for drying Great Salt Lake

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Kim Jarrett

(The Center Square) – Members of Utah's Congressional delegation are asking for $10 million to establish a new program that would monitor the Great Salt Lake region as water levels continue to be at historic lows. 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would be responsible for assessing the water availability of all the saline lakes in the Great Basin, according to a news release from U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah. The program would include input from federal and state agencies, tribes, local governments, and nonprofits. 

The bill also asked for a feasibility study that considers any technologies that could ease drought conditions by redirecting water sources, possibly across state borders.

“Utah’s iconic Great Salt Lake is currently at the lowest levels ever recorded – for the second time in less than a year,” Romney said. “It is incumbent on us to take action now which will preserve and protect this critical body of water for many generations to come. By authorizing a feasibility study on addressing the historic drought conditions of the Great Salt Lake, this legislation complements and elevates the work already being done by the State of Utah to develop a permanent solution to save our Great Salt Lake.”

Don Leonard, a member of the Great Salt Lake Advisory Council, said at a January summit sponsored by Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson that the state would lose billions if the issue is not addressed. 

"For years, our strategy to address a receding Great Salt Lake has been to hope for water levels to rise," Wilson said in news release Thursday. "We are now at a crisis point and if we want to find a solution, hope can no longer be our strategy. We must explore every option to get more water to the lake than ever before."

U.S. Reps. Chris Steward and Burgess Owens joined Romney in sponsoring the bill.