New Breach Allows Flow on Great Salt Lake

The new Great Salt Lake breach was opened on Dec. 1 by the Union Pacific Railroad Company. This created a new opening between the north and the south arm of the Lake, allowing water to flow between the two sides.

This time-lapse video shows the breach opening, which took about two hours.

Before the new breach was opened, the north arm of Great Salt Lake was at a historic low. Water had stopped flowing through the old Great Salt Lake causeway breach, preventing water travel between the southern and northern portions. Water levels in the south arm were approximately 3.3 feet higher than the north arm when the breach was opened.

The USGS is monitoring discharge through the new breach in cooperation with Utah Department of Environmental Quality.

The USGS provides real-time lake elevation readings for both the north arm (http://waterdata.usgs.gov/ut/nwis/uv/?site_no=10010100) and south arm (http://waterdata.usgs.gov/ut/nwis/uv/?site_no=10010000) of Great Salt Lake. These gauging stations will be a valuable resource to observe the water level changes as the two portions of the lake combine and even out.

The USGS maintains a record of Great Salt Lake elevations dating back to 1847 and has continuously measured the elevation of the lake since 1938.

 

 Thank you to Dr. Wayne Wurtsbaugh for these images. You can see more images of the breach here!

GSL Breach Opening 1697

The Breach looking northward into Gunnison Bay

GSL Breach Opening 1707

Strong flow into Gunnison Bay

GSL Breach Opening 1737

Langmuir Circulation cells (parallel streaks) and foam on Gunnison.  Each stream is probably separated from the next by 10-15'

 

GSL Breach Opening 1745

Gunnison "Island", with Compass Mineral dike and ponds in background

GSL Breach Opening 1701 

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In this section...

Why We Care

  • We suggest that Great Salt Lake is a phenomenal asset to the state of Utah. Its mineral resources have been appreciated for almost 150 years. Brine shrimp are now appreciated because they are economically valuable. To only a very limited extent is the lake appreciated for tourism, for culture, for earth systems history and for education. 

    Scientific Review Committee, Comments to the Great Salt Lake Management Planning Team, 1999

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