Tuesday, 17 September 2019 09:48

Rally to Stop the Polluting Port


Here's a message from Stop the Polluting Port coalition:

No one knows the full impact the proposed polluting port may have on our health.

Will you rally with us on Wednesday, September 18 at the Utah State Capitol? TIME: 10:15 AM.

We’re asking Utah’s legislative leaders to fund a Health Impact Assessment on development proposed for the Utah Inland Port in Salt Lake City. 

Join concerned community members at a press conference and rally calling on Utah Legislative leaders to fund a comprehensive Health Impact Analysis of new development proposed for the area controlled by the Utah Inland Port Authority. What will the impact of thousands of new truck and car trips be on our air quality, water quality, and the Great Salt Lake ecosystem? What will the impacts of light and noise pollution be? Utahns deserve answers before our tax dollars are further committed to this ill-conceived project. Bring a sign (we'll also have some on hand for you to use).

People power is making a big difference in our fight for a healthy community. Join us.

Thanks for all you do!!

We partner with the Natural History Museum of Utah and University of Utah Youth Education to offer two exciting and adventurous summer camps based on the science and ecology of Great Salt Lake!

Soar The Salty Shore 3 

Great Salt Lake Discoveries for Girls Only (June 10 - 14, 2019)

Ladies, the Great Salt Lake is ours to discover! With staff from FRIENDS of Great Salt Lake and the Natural History Museum of Utah, you’ll investigate the cool and unique ecosystem at the Great Salt Lake, from brine shrimp and owl pellets to buoyancy and pH levels! We’ll visit places like Antelope Island and Farmington Bay, conduct salty experiments, chew pickle weed, and watch birds through binoculars. We are investigators, adventurous, and love being outside. Drop off and pick up take place at NHMU. Transportation to field trip locations is provided. 

This program is only for girls entering 4th and 5th grade in Fall 2019.

Camp runs June 10-14, 2019 from 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. daily. Campers should bring their own non–refrigerated lunch from home along with a drink. We offer a supervised lunch hour that includes time to explore outside. Campers will receive a reusable water bottle and a camp shirt with their camp registration fee.

Camp Cost: $310 (NHMU members may be eligible for a discount)

Stay tuned for information about our 2020 camps!


Salty Science (June 24 - 28, 2019)

Stay salty this summer and in this field-based science camp! Whether it's investigating macroinvertebrates at Memory Grove Park or air boating on Farmington Bay, each day you'll go on a field trip to explore the ecosystems surrounding the Great Salt Lake. Along the way, engage in activities and conduct experiments to learn about watersheds, rock formations, salinity, native plants, insects, animals, and more. At the end of the week, you'll leave with an outdoor activity book and brine shrimp hatch kit to continue your field work at home! Co-sponsored with University of Utah Youth Education.

This camp is for both boys and girls ages 8-10 only.

Camp runs June 24-28, 2019 from 9am-3pm daily. Campers should bring their own lunch and water from home.

Camp Cost: $275

Stay tuned for information about our 2020 camps!

Youth Education Camp

August 19, 2019

Dear Council Members:

Friends of Great Salt Lake (Friends) urges you vote against the resolution extending a $28 million property tax increment reimbursement to NWQ, LLC.  As you no doubt are aware, Friends works to preserve and protect the Great Salt Lake Ecosystem and to increase public awareness and appreciation of the Lake through education, research, advocacy and the arts.  For a variety of reasons, continued development pressures on the fringes of the Lake pose a substantial threat to one of the most underappreciated parts of the Great Salt Lake Ecosystem – the uplands that surround the Lake and that are home to a variety of bird species that nest and feed in this habitat.  Not only would the additional warehouses that are being proposed continue the destruction of these greenfields, but the additional air pollution that would result from the vehicle traffic associated with the warehouses would make our already challenged air quality even worse.

It is one thing for private property owners to pursue this type of development on their own, but it is quite another for the Salt Lake City Council, acting in its capacity as a Redevelopment Agency, to offer a substantial amount of tax dollars to help them achieve this development.  The fact is that there is no need for the Council to offer this incentive.  If the market exists to support the additional warehouse space, that development will happen on its own – without those tax dollars.  And if it takes $28 million in tax incentives because this site is unsuited for development because of soil stability, that is a clear signal that these warehouses should be built elsewhere.

At this point in time, without a clear understanding of how this type of development would fit into the Port Authority’s plans, offering this incentive is premature.  It is also premature because jurisdictional issues have yet to be resolved and planning for the northwest quadrant has not been completed.  Without knowing what these pieces of this particular puzzle look like, now is not the time to make a decision of this magnitude.

Friends therefore asks that you either deny this request or delay a decision on this matter until additional information becomes available.

Lynn de Freitas

By Leia Larsen | Special to The Tribune

A controversial landfill located at the rocky southern tip of the Promontory Point cape jutting into the Great Salt Lake has secured the final permit needed to open for business. Now all it needs is its first customer.

Weber County might just fill that bill, with all three county commissioners expressing interest in a deal they say could mean savings for taxpayers.

“It looks to me like a wonderful place,” says Commissioner Scott Jenkins. “It’s all developed, the streets are in, the loading docks are there, the lights are up, the pits are dug. They’re ready.”

Great Salt Lake advocates, on the other hand, fear such a deal could be the precursor to future disaster for the fragile lake ecosystem.

“The worst possible place to put a landfill is next to a water body. If it doesn’t happen in 50 years, it will happen in 75 years — there will be a leak,” said Lynn de Freitas with FRIENDS of Great Salt Lake. “We think it was irresponsible for the landfill to even be conceived there.”

Click here to continue.

Hello friends – we were notified that the Salt Lake City Council, acting in their role as the Redevelopment Agency,  on Tuesday, August 20, at 2 pm, will be considering moving forward with the next steps in their development agreement with the Colmena Group by adopting a resolution committing up to $28 million in tax increment to the Colmena Group and their partners for Phase 1 of their development on the greenfield north of I-80.

If the city council moves forward with this development deal they will be taking the first step in creating the polluting port we’re worried about.

We are organizing on social media to get people to attend and speak.  We also have a regularly scheduled organizing meeting tonight (Monday) at 6 pm at the Main Library, 4th floor conference room, where we will be discussing this.

I have drafted a letter that sums up some of the main concerns:


Dear Council Members:

We respectfully request that you do not adopt a resolution authorizing a property tax increment reimbursement of up to $28 million to NWQ, LLC.

There are several reasons for our request.

First and foremost, it is unwise to move forward with specific, large scale and impactful development when there is litigation pending to resolve issues of jurisdiction, and when comprehensive planning for development in the northwest quadrant/proposed port area hasn’t been completed.  We’ve been told the Port Authority will have a draft plan available in early 2020.

Moving forward now locks-in a development pattern of intensive warehouse uses, as NWQ, LLC plans to build 10 new warehouses with a combined total of approximately 6 million square feet over the next 5 years. 

These warehouses would add more than 2,000 new truck trips, and 3,300 new car trips into the I-80 corridor (based on “truck bays” and “parking stalls” specified by developers in marketing materials).

Along with the lack of planning, is lack of analysis of environmental harm this development will inflict.  What will thousands of additional diesel truck trips and car trips do to our air quality?  What will massive warehouse development do to wildlife habitat?  What will stormwater runoff from these newly paved surfaces do to water quality and how will that impact the millions of birds that rely on the Great Salt Lake ecosystem? These are just a few of the critical questions that must be answered.

One of the reasons cited for bestowing tax increment on the developers is because it’s a hard, therefore expensive, place to build and they can’t do it without a tax break from Salt Lake City.  For example, they expect to spend $28 million for “Burdened site improvements” related to soil stabilization due to the sandy soil and highwater table.

Should we really be subsidizing development in such an environmentally fragile landscape that is difficult and expensive to build in?

Moving forward without answers to these questions and others, will subject Salt Lake City and our community members to the risks of harm, without the assurance of any significant benefit.  And these decisions will determine the future of Salt Lake City, as well as the Salt Lake and Tooele valleys.

Therefore, we urge you to put this process on hold, until we have better information and answers to the questions about environmental harm.



Deeda Seed
Senior Utah Field Campaigner 
Center for Biological Diversity


Click here to read the RDA staff report.

Click here to read information about the Northwest Quadrant Overlay District. 

Click here to read information about Light Manufacturing Zoning.

Click here to read the Master Development and Reimbursement Agreement.

Click here to read the Administrative Transmittal and Memo.

More than 18 years after accusing two now-defunct magnesium companies of polluting at a production facility in Utah, federal agencies announced Monday that they’ve reached a settlement under which the companies’ trustee and others will fund a $33 million cleanup.

Under the deal with the trustee to Magnesium Corporation of America and Renco Metals Inc., the U.S. will score bankruptcy claims in the amount of $82.1 million, which is expected to yield about $28 million toward remediation. Another $5.8 million is expected to come from the current operator of the magnesium production facility, US Magnesium LLC.

“Polluters will be held to account, even in bankruptcy, for contaminating the environment,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman of the Southern District of New York said in a release. “As a result of today’s settlement, MagCorp and Renco Metals will pay more than $33 million to fund cleanup of the hazardous substances at the US Magnesium Superfund Site.”

The U.S. sued MagCorp and Renco in January 2001, claiming that MagCorp, which was then the largest magnesium producer in the country, created ditches of polluted run-off on a site adjacent to the Great Salt Lake as a result of its production. MagCorp’s facility in Tooele County, Utah, was designated a Superfund site in 2009. Click here to continue.

A new landfill is just one step away from dumping garbage near the shores of Great Salt Lake.

Utah's Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control (Division) approved a permit modification for groundwater monitoring wells on a controversial landfill site on Promontory Peninsula operated by Promontory Point Resources, LLC (PPR),

FRIENDS of Great Salt Lake (FRIENDS), a non-profit membership organization whose mission is to preserve and protect the Great Salt Lake Ecosystem through education, research, advocacy, and the arts, intends to appeal the permit approval to the Executive Director of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality.

The FRIENDS' administrative appeal focuses on the following:

  1. the Division’s approval did not require PPR to conduct the necessary studies to determine if the landfill will harm the Lake through groundwater contamination.
  2. The Division either discounted or ignored the results of previous independent investigations that reported the “highly-fractured” nature of the bedrock and local hydrogeologic conditions that show groundwater connectivity with the Lake.
  3. In spite of multiple requests by the Division for PPR to develop a defensible groundwater flow model for the area around the landfill and address concerns regarding the suitability of the landfill location, PPR refused the requests.
  4. The Division proceeded in the spirit of this refusal and approved the permit without including the results from previous independent studies and the lack of a defensible groundwater flow model.

Sign this petition to indicate you want to see these issues addressed.

Click here to sign

The new $3.6 billion rebuild of Salt Lake City International Airport was envisioned 20 years ago in the airport’s current master plan. Now, the city wants to know what residents think the airport should look like 20 years from now.

It is working on a new master plan to chart the airport’s next 20 years and create a blueprint for long-term development.

It invites all interested parties to share ideas at a meeting July 17 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Salt Lake City Public Library, 210 E. 400 South.

Refreshments and validations for library parking will be provided. The meeting will also be streamed live on the airport’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/SaltLakeCityInternationalAirport.

By Lynn de Freitas, Special to the Salt Lake Tribune

Imagine you’re a well-funded company from out of state and you purchase what you think will be a profitable multimillion-dollar business in Utah. You develop a business plan, invest lots of money and start construction. But as it turns out, the facility you want to operate can’t get a permit under state law. What to do?

While some might suggest you should have done your due diligence before spending millions of dollars, in today’s anything-goes political climate you might pull out your checkbook, hire a bunch of lobbyists and try to get the law changed. And that’s exactly what Promontory Point Resources (PPR), an out-of-state company with an office in Ogden, attempted to do.

About 2016, PPR bought property with an old landfill permit but no landfill. Several previous owners failed to get a landfill going on the property. Maybe these failures and the fact that the property was located at the tip of Promontory Point peninsula, surrounded on three sides by Great Salt Lake, should have given PPR a clue that this wasn’t a great idea. But PPR went ahead and built a landfill anyway.

Unfortunately, the unused permit for the property was a Class I permit, which meant PPR could only dispose of household waste from local communities. That wasn’t what PPR wanted, and the landfill has sat empty and profitless for over two years. What PPR really wants is to run a commercial Class V landfill that takes out-of-state waste, including California hazardous waste and coal ash from throughout the United States. Because that’s where the money is.

Maybe, because PPR isn’t from around here, it thought it could ignore the significance of Great Salt Lake. But because Class V landfills can bring other states’ garbage into Utah, state law requires companies to meet a few extra requirements – they have to show an actual need for the landfill and that it won’t harm the environment. Again – PPR’s landfill is right by Great Salt Lake.

PPR submitted what’s called a needs assessment and tries to demonstrate Utah really needs another commercial landfill and that it can be profitable so the state won’t be saddled with an unprofitable mess. PPR submitted the Needs Assessment – twice. And PPR failed to show a Class V landfill on Promontory is needed – twice. One reason is because Utah already has over 1,600 years’ of Class V storage – we really don’t need another dump for other states’ waste.

So, because it can’t meet the requirements of the law – requirements that protect Utah from becoming the nation’s dumping ground – PPR tries to change it. During 2019, PPR lobbyists managed to introduce legislation allowing all 24 Class I Utah landfills to convert to Class V landfills without satisfying the needs assessment, without any additional environmental requirements, and without approval by the Department of Environmental Quality as currently required by state law.

Rather, the Legislature and the governor would have to sign off on a conversion request. Given what the Legislature and the governor did to allow depleted uranium in Tooele, that’s not much of a safeguard. And, in the case of PPR, the Legislature has already given its approval so this change in the law would effectively remove any barriers that stand in the company’s way. The bottom line here is that PPR tried to skirt the existing laws it couldn’t satisfy by simply getting rid of them.

Click here to continue.

The Great Salt Lake Geopolitical Landscape, Water, and the Shapes of Things to Come 

“Order! Order! Order!”
– Betty Boothroid, first female Speaker of the British House of Commons, 1992-2000

Has it been that long ago since the gavel-to-gavel 63rd Legislative Session occurred? It seems like only yesterday that the pre and post forty-five day marathon of strategizing, building partnerships, and exercising constant vigilance on behalf of Great Salt Lake was full bore. That being said, running that gauntlet generated some very promising outcomes that will provide good and constructive traction for our Lake work. No surprise there were, of course, disappointments and we will need to invest more time and more effective ways in order to succeed in the future. And unfortunately, there were also frank reminders that threats to the future of this hemispherically important ecosystem are always out there and require perseverance, vigilance, and us to protect Great Salt Lake’s future.

So what’s the takeaway from the session and how are complementary efforts to these legislative actions being effectively integrated to address the sustainability of the Lake?

Thanks to important research conducted by Wayne Wurtsbaugh et al. 2016 USU Impacts of Water Development on Great Salt Lake and the Wasatch Front, we know that since statehood—123 years ago—the elevation of Great Salt Lake has dropped 11 ft. Human impacts and upstream diversions of 871 million gallons annually from streams that feed the Lake, effectively reduced net river inflows to the Lake by 39%, dropping the volume of Great Salt Lake by nearly half.

We know from other saline systems globally and even those in our own regional backyard, that the dire consequences of a drying lake are far-reaching and costly to global wildlife species, human health, our economic future, and our quality of life. The sobering reality is that the Lake is in a state of decline. This has been the catalyst for timely media coverage, intense discussions among a variety of interests, integrated initiatives spawned from the July 2017 Recommended State Water Strategy, and legislation intended to raise awareness about the necessity of including Great Salt Lake in the consideration of Utah’s water future.

HCR10—Concurrent Resolution to Address Declining Water Levels of the Great Salt Lake sponsored by Rep. Tim Hawkes and Sen. Scott Sandall is one of those positive deliverables. A concurrent resolution is one that includes the governor’s consent, and in this case received unanimous support from both houses. It’s a positive deliverable because it acknowledges that there’s a real problem which needs to be addressed. And to do that requires an effective policy solution. The resolution

recognizes the important range of values the Lake contributes to the State and how water is integral to sustaining those values. “This concurrent resolution recognizes the critical importance of continued water flows to Great Salt Lake and its wetlands and the need for solutions to address declining water levels while appropriately balancing economic, social, and environmental needs.” The resolution also includes an expectation from this acknowledgement that states, “BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Legislature and the Governor encourage the Departments of Natural Resources and Environmental Quality through their relevant divisions, along with the Great Salt Lake Advisory Council, to expeditiously, jointly, and collaboratively engage with a wide-range of stakeholders to develop recommendations for policy and other solutions to ensure adequate water flows to Great Salt Lake and its wetlands.” By November 30, 2020, the Legislature and the Governor will expect to know the findings, conclusions, and recommendations of the work that DEQ, DNR, and the GSL Advisory Council identify to address this problem.

This is really cool!

Part of ensuring adequate water flows to Great Salt Lake and its wetlands comes from water conservation. Conserving water in a dry state like Utah should be second nature to all of us. However, as evidenced in the research by Wurtsbaugh et al, we’ve got to shift the paradigm BIG TIME. And even though nearly 20 years ago, Governor Michael Leavitt set a statewide water conservation goal of 25% by 2025, in 2015 our daily water per capita use was an embarrassingly high 244 gallons, about twice as much as Tucson and other southwestern cities.

We know that climate change is a given. If we acknowledge the true cost of water, incorporate improved technologies to increase efficiency in water use, educate to change behaviors, and make sure that the water we conserve is also available for our natural systems, we can avoid the perceived need to develop expensive “new” water infrastructure. So there’s lots of room to move.

With these basic tenets in mind, SB52—Secondary Water Requirement sponsored by Sen. Jacob L. Anderegg and Rep. Tim Hawkes was an attempt to break the water conservation sound barrier by legislatively addressing pressurized secondary water metering. Secondary water is untreated pressurized water that is delivered to individual property owners for irrigation of lawns and gardens.

The Division of Water Resources has determined that Utahns use about 115,000 acre-ft./year of secondary water. (One acre-foot is approximately 326,000 gallons, or enough

water to cover a football field about one foot deep). This volume of secondary water use is comparable to about half of the proposed Bear River development diversion for Utah. Clearly, this is an area of water use that requires more scrutiny and improved efficiency.

A terrific example of how improvements in equipment design and related technology in secondary water metering have increased water conservation can be found in the work that the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District initiated in 2009. There’s a great write up in their 2018 Winter Newsletter, Saving Water through Secondary Water Metering, by Darren Hess, Assistant General Manager for the District. Do take a look. Although the costs are significant, especially when retrofitting existing secondary connections with meters, the return on investment speaks volumes. And the District is committed to continuing to install meters to increase water efficiency, promote water conservation, and foster better stewardship of secondary water users. And that’s a good thing.

Originally, SB52 was going to mandate the metering of all secondary untreated pressurized water systems by 2030. Low interest loans, grants, and some exemptions for smaller water districts would help with the steep costs involved, but it was still quite a heavy lift for many. And since the goal of this effort was to help realize the value secondary water metering has in meeting our water challenges for the future, and to keep this effort in tact during the session, the sponsors revised the language in the bill to increase buy-in.

The revised and passed SB52 “requires any secondary water provider that begins design work for new secondary water services to certain users—commercial, industrial, institutional, and residential—on or after April 1, 2020, to meter the use of the water.” A plan must be submitted no later than December 31, 2019 to the Division of Water Resources from which low interest loans will be made available. The plan must include the cost of full metering, how it will be financed, and the timeline. Annual reporting to the Division of Water Rights is required. And by November 2019, the Utah Water Task Force within the Department of Natural Resources must provide the results of a study of issues that surround secondary water metering in the state to the Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Interim Committee. It’s all good and necessary and moves us in the right direction to improve accountability, management, and conservation of water in Utah.

There’s also a grundle (I made up this word) of appropriations—some ongoing—that help season this productive mix of water works. Among them is a $500k appropriation for Great Salt Lake research on the impacts from changing water levels to ecosystem services and potential measures to address them.$500k (ongoing) to support the saga of phragmites removal around the Lake. It may surprise you to know that phragmites impacts

more than 26,000 acres within the marshes of Great Salt Lake and sucks up approximately 71,446 acre-ft of water (remember that football field) that would otherwise be going into the open water habitat of the system. And HB381—The Agricultural Water Optimization Bill (2018 session and ongoing) includes an appropriation of $3M to bring agricultural irrigation practices into the 21st century.

We owe big briny hugs to Rep. Casey Snider and Sen. Allen Christensen for their efforts to add the Willard Spur to our endowment of wildlife management areas around the Lake. HB265—Wildlife Management Area Amendments adds about 14,000 acres of unique wetlands and open water habitat of the Lake to the already existing 90,000+ acres of WMA’s that protect wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities on Great Salt Lake.

Get out your binoculars everybody.

And in the “Perseverance Furthers Department” thanks to the effective sponsorship of Sen. Jani Iwamoto, and Rep. Steward Barlow, and the tenacity of the Water Banking Working Group, SJR1—Joint Resolution Supporting the Study of Water Banking in Utah passed unanimously in both houses. SJR1 gives us a golden opportunity to explore the development of a helpful water tool that could effectively open up collaborative distribution of water for beneficial uses that would include natural systems like Great Salt Lake. You can read more about it in this issue.

We can all be encouraged by what appears to be a sea change in legislative activity on behalf of Great Salt Lake. And it’s exciting to think about forging new alliances to advance its protection and sustain its future. But we mustn’t lose sight of ongoing attempts to hinder that. So it’s no surprise that the parties associated with the Promontory Point Resources, LLC landfill proposal attempted to get legislation passed to favor their agenda. Their proposal, SB266—Waste Regulations Modifications would have allowed any Class I landfill that can currently only take in-state municipal waste to become a Class V landfill. Class V allows a landfill to take out-of-state (and more toxic) waste without approval by the Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control, and without a public process. The legislation would have also eliminated the needs assessment and the requirement that environmental benefits outweigh the costs. Fortunately, the bill did not succeed. Thank goddess! But it’s a sobering reminder that our collective work for the Lake is imperative and ongoing.

Remember, Great Salt Lake is a Public Trust that belongs to all of us. Thanks for being there.

In saline,



Why We Care

  • The Great Salt Lake evokes wonder and mystery alone, it's vastness and solitude a splendor to behold. The Spiral Jetty, by assuming the spiral shape referenced time and again by cultures and physicists, is a vehicle for contemplation, journeying, perfection. Robert Smithson chose the Great Salt Lake as a setting for his artwork thoughtfully. He knew the combination would be magical.

    Susan Kirby, Alfred Lambourne Prize Participant