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Utah Travel Headlines

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Great Salt Lake Level Is Rising, Benefiting Wildlife & Recreationists

The Great Salt Lake is expected to rise about 5.7 feet this year, the result of heavy runoff from above-normal mountain snowfall. It will be the most the lake has ever risen in one year. But the lake level has been low and so the increase will bring it up to its historic average.

The land around the lake is relatively flat and so a small rise in the lake's level will send water over a large area, recharging wetlands that are important for migrating birds and other wildlife. The lake's surface area is expected to expand almost 40 percent.

The lake is a popular spot for sailboats, and it will become even more attractive as the water rises.

The lake also offers a number of sandy beaches and people enjoy splashing in its famously salty water. Those beaches will be more accessible and pleasant because of the higher water.

The Salt Lake Tribune has this article about the lake's rising water level. Below are excerpts.

As of June 7, the lake had come up to 4,198.1 feet and is expected to hit 4,200 feet or more by the end of the snowmelt. A 5.5- to 5.7-foot gain would be the biggest in one year since records have been kept, according to Dave Shearer, the harbor master at the Great Salt Lake State Marina.

But the water has been so low that this year’s huge runoff will bring it only to its historic average. The lake would have to come up another 6 to 8 feet before the pumps on its west shores, installed by Gov. Norm Bangerter in 1987, could be turned on, said Todd Adams of the state Division of Water Resources.

“We are almost going to recoup from our 11-year drought in one winter,” said Shearer. “The last few years has sucked the life out of the marina. But it’s coming back to life. This has bought us a couple of years of sailing.”

The rising water also is good for wildlife, particularly bird populations that nest or molt on the lake’s shores. The Great Salt Lake is part of both the Pacific and Central North American flyways and hosts hundreds of bird species and populations that number in the millions, said John Luft of the state Division of Wildlife Resources.

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