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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Why We Care

  • Great Salt Lake, the second most hypersaline Inland Sea in the world, has a fate of becoming even more salty with permanent loss of a large portion of its Bear River fresh water life supply.

    Precious fresh water diverted to support more of the same, the endless expansion of the human race, big box stores, and shopping centers duplicated around the country ruining any future adventure of small town exploration and road trips.

    Everything is becoming the same. Everyone is looking the same. Everyone does the same things. Great Salt Lake is unique and the planet is loosing it as its life blood is stolen from its soft salty shores, waves gently breaking further and further out, leaving vast arrays of dry barren mudflats waiting for phragmites to invade.

    Utah does not own Great Salt Lake. Great Salt Lake is owned by the world.

    Karri Smith, Alfred Lambourne Prize Participant

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