Great Salt Lake and Urmia Lake are very similar saline systems, except for one big difference, we still have a chance to save our Inland Sea.

You can watch the KSL covereage here :

“I want to have enough water so we can turn those damn pumps on again.”

- The late Governor Norm Bangerter (1933- 2015)

I would add a bittersweet amen to that, Governor.

I think it was the spring of 2003 when FRIENDS hosted a field trip to the West Desert Pumping Project (WDPP) aka the “Bangerter Pumps”. In our never-ending pursuit of Great Salt Lake discoveries, we went to satisfy our curiosity about a fairly controversial project in the 80’s that had become famous. Famous because it provided an engineering solution of mythological proportions that enhanced the Lake’s natural evaporation process by mechanically expanding its surface area out into the west desert. As part of an extensive flood control program that was being implemented to address a rising Great Salt Lake, the project was awarded the 1988 Civil Engineering Achievement of Merit by the American Society of Civil Engineers. Awesome, dude!

Such measures aren’t totally foreign to our relationship with Great Salt Lake. The railroad had already made its statement in the 1950s by constructing the infamous causeway that continues to divide the system into two ecologically distinct parts – the North and South Arms. There’s evidence that even Brigham Young considered ways of “spilling” the Lake into the west desert to increase evaporation back in 1873 when it peaked at 4,211.5’. But the WDPP was then, and is now, symbolic of how we regard the importance of the Lake’s economic and ecological values in the scheme of our modern day existence.  And in that context, it also demonstrates how willing we are to persist in a tug of war relationship that defines our cultural interface between what we do and don’t want from Great Salt Lake.

On the rise-

As a shallow, terminal lake at the bottom of a 35,000 sq. mi. drainage basin with no natural outlet, a series of wet years will intensify any upward trending of the Lake’s elevation. The Lake rebounded from a record low of 4,191.3’ in 1963 and, despite a brief dry cycle in the 1970s, rose 20 feet over the course of 24 years. With that rise and an abbreviated evaporation season in 1982, the Lake’s briny waters spread out on its natural floodplain impacting a range of lakescape and landscape uses. Its surface area had nearly doubled to about 3,300 square miles. And between 1982 and 1987 (remember the river down State Street in 1983?) its volume had tripled to nearly 30 million acre- feet resulting in another historic high elevation of about 4,211.85’ mean surface level.

For 25 years between 1940 and1965 when the Lake was low, development on and around the Lake had escalated. Now, given the circumstances of these high water conditions much was at stake. Potential targets included the Salt Lake International Airport, extractive industries like minerals and brine shrimp, wildlife management areas and important habitat, public utilities such as wastewater treatment operations, roads and interstate highways, railroads and causeways, harbors and other recreational facilities, productive farmland, tourism, businesses, backyards and basements in neighborhoods, and anything else that happened to be in harm’s way from a swelling Great Salt Lake. Damages from this larger Lake were estimated at $1billion.

This kind of fluctuation of the Lake is considered within the range of its historic hydrologic cycle. However with such a stunning inundation of water at every turn, in the June 1999 report from the Utah Division of Water Resources and Utah Department of Natural Resources, The Great Salt Lake West Desert Pumping Project: Its Design, Development, and Operation, the Lake was characterized as  “being out of control”, “on a destructive rampage”, and “plagued those who have utilized its shores.”  Such a significant challenge from our inland sea impelled the state to step up to protect the health, safety and economic interests that were now at risk. And it was very ready, willing and able to do so.

Timing is of the essence-

By the late 1970’s quite a lot of attention had already been given to the concept of a West Desert Pumping Project as part of alternative flood control measures. In December 1983, the Utah Division of Water Resources released A Final Report West Desert Pumping Alternative-Great Salt Lake concluding that such a project was feasible. A WDPP would consist of a pumping plant, a system of canals and ponds, containment dikes and a return brine conveyance system. The extent of its footprint would go well beyond its state sovereign lands jurisdiction to include public lands, lands owned by the BLM and the US Air Force Target Range. Various permits, right-of ways (ROW), and agreements would have to be secured for a project of this scope to be constructed.

In 1984, the Southern Pacific Railroad causeway was breached to relieve the growing water differential that was banking up on the causeway from the collective inflows of the Bear, Weber/Ogden, and Jordan Rivers into the south arm. This breach dropped the elevation about one foot. Following the usual regulatory process, an Environmental Impact Statement was created, including Diking and No Action Alternatives. The final Record of Decision came in July 1986 and a 50-year ROW was granted by the BLM to the state on June 20, 1986 to “construct, operate, maintain and terminate” the WDPP. The USAF also granted the state a short-­term emergency access that terminated at the end of the pumping period.

In special session, the Utah Legislature authorized $71.7 million for HB 6 – the flood control bill.  The bill supported an array of immediate and long-term flood control measures that included the West Desert Pumping Project. More ominously, it also included funding for future feasibility considerations for dams and upstream storage, particularly on the Bear River that provides the lion’s share of inflows to Great Salt Lake.

From start to finish of the operation – April 10, 1987 to June 30, 1989, the pumps moved over 2.73 million acre-feet of Great Salt Lake water. The surface of the Lake dropped about 14.5” shrinking its shoreline by approximately 50,000 acres. In the first year of operation 1.4 million acre-feet of water - equivalent to 40% of the total level decline- was pumped. Even now, opinions vary about when and how long the pumps should have operated but there is consensus that the strategy was beneficial in addressing the flooding.

On the decline-

Springtime is normally the time of year boats are lowered into the harbor at the Great Salt Lake Marina. This year, boats are being lifted out for dry dock/storage until perhaps 2017. Slip renters are being encouraged by Harbormaster Dave Shearer to arrange for all boats with a draft over 3’ to be pulled out in preparation for the long awaited dredging that will finally begin on July 1. Although Great Salt Lake recreation contributes about $135.8 million annually to Utah’s economy, the $1.5 million for dredging required significant arm-twisting of Utah legislators to commit money from the Sovereign Lands Restricted Funds (that’s what this fund is for) to provide some relief. But without additional funding support from the State Parks Park Fees Restricted Funds (sic) dredging wouldn’t be happening.

Many of these boats haven’t been able to leave their slips for almost a year and sailors are preparing for a record low Lake elevation of 4,191.3’ this summer. Shearer suggests that a snowpack of 140% or more is necessary for the Lake to rise enough in 2016 to make it suitable for navigation again.

Meanwhile, in the North Arm (4,192.4’) where Lake levels are typically 1.5’ lower, the 3rd largest breeding population of American White Pelicans in North America is returning to Gunnison Island to produce the next generation of birds. The island is no longer surrounded by water. That means the population is vulnerable to land access predators.

The island and pelicans are protected under Utah law. How are the Division of Wildlife Resources, and Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands proposing to meet this jurisdictional responsibility?

We know from other saline systems in the region and around the planet that upstream water diversions and climate change have contributed to lower water levels. In some cases, such as California’s Owens Lake, lakes have dried up completely. Exposed lakebeds create dust and air quality problems that influence health and quality of life issues. At Owens Lake, millions of dollars are now being spent on trying to put water back into a system that has become notorious for its high levels of PM10.

Back in the ‘80’s Utah was ready, willing and able to take the initiative to protect economic interests that are generated by the Lake, protect the health and safety of its population, and address important ecological attributes like habitat restoration and protection.

Why aren’t we doing that now? The situation is the same: low water levels threaten economic interests, threaten the health of our citizens, and threaten critical habitat. It is time to act. At the very least $1.3 billion is at stake.

In saline,



Thanks for being there for the Lake.

Officials have just released a controversial audit of the Utah Division of Water Resources.

Government officials said legislators from both sides called for the audit after claims the division opposed water conservation for fears it could reduce water revenues for water sellers.

Critics also accuse the division of inflating future water needs to scare the public into spending billions on water projects like the Lake Powell Pipeline and the Bear River Project.

MORE: Click here to see what the water audit found

News Release                                       

Joro Walker, Senior Attorney/Utah Office Director, Western Resource Advocates
Tim Wagner, Executive Director, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment
Lynn de Freitas, Executive Director, Friends of Great Salt Lake
Joan Clayburgh, Communications Director, Western Resource Advocates
Cell: 530-318-5370, 


Utah Groups Forced to Sue Over Permitting More Air Pollution At HollyFrontier Refinery
State fails to protect public health when the law requires emission reductions


(April 28, 2015) Western Resource Advocates, representing Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment and Friends of the Great Salt Lake, is filing litigation appealing the Utah Division of Air Quality (DAQ) decision to issue an air quality permit allowing expansion of the HollyFrontier refinery in Salt Lake City.

The case contends that the permit should be denied because the expansion will result in a major increase in air pollution in a region that is already failing to meet federal air quality standards. The modification alone will increase emissions of hazardous air pollutants by 13 tons per year. The HollyFrontier refinery proposal greatly surpasses permitted levels, with its flares alone contributing 240 tons of sulfur dioxide each year, which is more than twice the permit limit for the plant's entire operations of 110 tons of sulfur dioxide per year.Fine particulate air pollution (PM2.5) in several northern Utah counties currently exceeds the Clean Air Act’s health-based 24-hour National Ambient Air Quality Standard. Salt Lake County is also exceeding the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone and is in violation of the sulfur dioxide and particulate matter (PM10) standards. Numerous polls show that air pollution remains the issue of greatest concern to most Utah residents.“We have all felt our eyes and lungs burn and worried about the health of our children and parents. Utah should not permit another new project that will result in a major increase in air pollution and make this bad situation worse,” said Joro Walker, lead attorney on the case and Western Resource Advocate’s Utah Director.
The challenge claims the Division of Air Quality failed to calculate the emissions from the proposed expansion accurately. The heart of the issue is that the expansion will result in a major increase in air pollution, which is not allowed by federal law in an air pollution non-attainment area such as the Wasatch Front. By federal law, the Division may not permit the expansion unless the company secures a greater air pollution reduction elsewhere in the non-attainment area and the Division of Air Quality shows an overall air quality benefit.“Permitting Holly to emit more pollution in our already highly polluted region is a death sentence for some individuals,” said Tim Wagner with Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment. “Our state agencies must do a better job of reducing air pollution and protecting public health.”“There is no safe level of exposure to particulate pollution and no threshold below which negative health effects disappear. Some people literally die from exposure.

Utah’s agencies should never allow more pollution when there are alternative paths for our economy and our health to improve,” said Lynn de Freitas, Executive Director of Friends of Great Salt Lake.HollyFrontier is one of the largest independent petroleum refiners in the United States, processing crude oil for gasoline, asphalt and other products. Refinery particulate pollution contains high concentrations of heavy metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, sulfur oxides, nitrous oxides and volatile organic compounds. The refinery contributes to Utah’s air pollution problem by directly emitting hazardous air pollutants and PM2.5, as well as the pollutants that form fine particulate matter during inversions.   

To receive a copy of the legal filing contact



For the last 25 years Western Resource Advocates has been one of the West’s leading conservation groups protecting the region’s air, land and water. WRA’s lawyers, scientists and economists craft innovative solutions for the most complex natural resource challenges in the region. Go to and follow us on Twitter @WRADV.

Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment was formed in 2007 during one of Utah's worse inversions.  The organization consists of approximately 350 medical professional within Utah, and another 4,000 supporting members of the public.  UPHE is dedicated to protecting the health and well-being of the citizens of Utah by promoting science- based health education and interventions that result in progressive, measurable improvements to the environment. UPHE can be found at or on Facebook.


The Utah Department of Natural Resources, Division of Forestry, Fire & State Lands requests proposals for research projects that will assist the Division in becoming better informed stewards of Great Salt Lake. It is the intent of the Division to gain a better understanding of the lake system which leads to informed decision making regarding long-term management of this important ecosystem.

The Great Salt Lake Tech Team, through its Research and Grants Subcommittee, has identified six “hot topics” that research projects will address in 2016, either individually or in combination:

  1. Bioherms/Stromatolites – Research could further identify characteristics of the unique structures that grow in the Great Salt Lake and the benefits that they provide to the ecosystem. Identification of optimal conditions that promote growth and stressors that cause impairment would be beneficial.
  2. Effects of dust from exposed lake beds of the Great Salt Lake – Does the increased exposure of a dry lake bed have adverse impacts on human health and agricultural viability in the Great Salt Lake basin?
  3. Impacts of increasing salinity on the biota of the Great Salt Lake -   Increasing demands for fresh water in the Great Salt Lake basin have the potential to cause further decrease in overall lake levels and increase salinity.  How does the increased concentration of salts impact the production of brine shrimp, brine flies and the birds that rely on the organisms for food?
  4. Mercury - Further characterize the fate and transport, biological process, and impacts of mercury on sensitive species and human health. Consider how the methylization of mercury is impacted with the closure of the culverts and the low lake levels.
  5. Salinity balance and cycle - Research could include analysis and quantification of riverine and atmospheric inputs to each bay and total extraction from the lake. Provide further understanding of the current salt crust on the GSL lakebed and how the salt crust impacts the lake’s overall salt balance. Examine the positive and negative implications of increased or decreased circulation between bays.
  6. Phragmites- Assessing and implementing approaches to manage Phragmites in the GSL watershed. Examine a range of revegetation strategies after Phragmites treatments.

Click here to download the complete RFP and other details

FRIENDS of Great Salt Lake is requesting Statements of Qualifications and Proposals from individuals and firms to act as the FoGSL’s technical expert in monitoring and interpreting site specific information related to the cleanup of the US Magnesium Superfund Site near Rowley, Utah in Tooele County.

FoGSL RFP for Technical Advisor USMAG.pdf


The DEADLINE for responding to this RFQ/RFP and for submitting all related materials is Tuesday, April 14th, 2015, at 5:00 P.M.  

FoGSL will announce the successful applicant within thirty days of the deadline. FoGSL expects to enter into a written “time and material” contract with a “not to exceed” cap on total costs, expenses and materials with the selected individual or firm. The selection process, the contractor, and contract are subject to prior review by the EPA. FoGSL reserves the right to modify, withdraw or cancel this RFQ/RFP at any time and for any reason prior to the execution of a written agreement with the selected individual or firm.

FoGSL reserves the right to meet with one or more respondents before making a final selection.

Address all submissions and correspondence to:

Katie Pearce, TAG Coordinator and Board member, FRIENDS of Great Salt Lake

P.O. Box 2655, Salt Lake City, Utah 84110.



Thursday, 12 March 2015 00:00

Employment Opportunity

FRIENDS of Great Salt Lake is seeking to hire an Environmental Education Coordinator. 

Title: Environmental Education Coordinator

Location: Salt Lake City, UT

Status: Part-time, Year round

Compensation: $10-$12 hourly

FRIENDS of Great Salt Lake (FRIENDS) was founded in 1994. The mission of FRIENDS is to preserve and protect Great Salt Lake ecosystems and to increase public awareness and appreciation of the Lake through education, research, advocacy, and the arts. The long-term vision of FRIENDS is to achieve comprehensive watershed-based restoration and protection for the Great Salt Lake Ecosystem.

The Environmental Education Coordinator’s primary responsibility will be facilitating the 4th grade Lakeside Learning field trip program at Antelope Island State Park and Great Salt Lake Marina State Park. This position will also participate in community outreach events, administrative duties, and other tasks as assigned by the Education and Outreach Director. 

The Environmental Education Coordinator works with a diverse population of students, in groups of 25-50, in remote outdoor settings; it is essential that the Environmental Education Coordinator be comfortable working in various conditions (biting insects, salt, sand, rain, sun) outdoors and be adaptable in the case of inclement weather.

Lakeside Learning field trips take place Monday through Friday, between 8am and 2pm during the months of April, May, June, September, and October at Antelope Island State Park and Great Salt Lake Marina State Park. Additional work will generally take place during business hours, Monday through Friday, although some evening and weekends may be required. Although this position will average 20-25 hours per week, the weekly time commitment will be variable.

The Environmental Education Coordinator will:

  • Assist in the coordination of our Lakeside Learning field trip program, including:
    • Lead groups of 4th graders through a series of outdoor educational activities at Antelope Island State Park and Great Salt Lake Marina State Park.
    • Coordinate field trip schedules with volunteers and teachers
    • Prepare and maintain field trip gear
    • Work with staff, volunteers, and program participants to evaluate Lakeside Learning
  • Co-lead Great Salt Lake Summer Camp (a week-long day camp for 4th and 5th graders)
  • Coordinate participation in public outreach events and festivals
  • Assist with preparations for and during FRIENDS’ annual fall fundraising event
  • Assist with other FRIENDS of Great Salt Lake education/outreach efforts as needed, which may include:
    • Design and create outreach items and educational materials
    • Update existing curriculum
    • Plan/staff special events
    • Other duties as assigned

Minimum Qualifications:

  • Bachelor’s Degree in Education, Environmental Studies, or related discipline preferred (2+ years of job experience will be considered in place of education)
  • Capable of acting as a group facilitator
  • Comfortable working with youth in an outdoor setting
  • Ability to maintain a positive attitude and a calm demeanor in stressful situations
  • Strong organizational skills
  • Self-motivated and independent
  • Quick learner and willingness to learn environmental concepts, specifically those focused on Great Salt Lake
  • Ability to do moderate lifting and walk up to a mile over uneven terrain
  • Computer proficiency and access to a computer and internet
  • Experience on social media platforms
  • Valid Drivers’ License and own transportation (mileage reimbursement available when using personal vehicle)
  • Successful completion of a criminal background check, upon hiring

Preferred Qualifications:

  • Prior experience teaching environmental education
  • Prior experience working with youth in an outdoor setting
  • Familiarity with inquiry-based facilitation, place-based education
  • Knowledgeable of the Great Salt Lake Ecosystem and local conservation, education, and management groups
  • Safety training and certifications

How to Apply:
Email a resume, cover letter, and 3 references to Holly Simonsen at no later than Friday February 22, 2018.

Wednesday, 01 April 2015 00:00

The 2nd Annual Alfred Lambourne Prize

FRIENDS of Great Salt Lake is excited to announce the 2nd Annual Alfred Lambourne Prize!

FRIENDS looks forward to another year of celebrating the relationship between local artists and one of Utah’s most precious natural resources. Through artistic expressions, we enhance our capacity to build awareness about Great Salt Lake and our need to preserve and protect it for the future.

Click here for complete details and how to submit your work.

Monday, 23 February 2015 00:00

Great Salt Lake Bird Festival

Great Salt Lake Bird Festival May 14-18, 2015 Farmington, Utah
The 2015 Great Salt Lake Bird Festival promises another fantastic program of field trips, workshops, and family events. And the icing on the cake for our 17th annual Festival is Keynote Speaker David Allen Sibley.
Festival attendees have several incredible opportunities to interact with Sibley, America's most gifted contemporary painter of birds, and the author and illustrator of The Sibley Guide to Birds(2nd edition released in 2014). Sibley will offer a workshop at 3 p.m. on Friday, May 15, followed by a book signing. He will also co-lead two field trips on Saturday, May 16, and conclude the day as the keynote speaker at the Festival’s Dutch Oven Dinner.
Dinner tickets to hear David Allen Sibley are on sale now at; just click the “Register Now” button.

Be sure to check back again starting at 9 a.m. MST on March 2 for all field trip registration. Many trips fill up fast—so log in early to get your preferred spots.
As always, the Festival offers a full slate of family activities on Friday evening and all day on Saturday. The “Birding Is for Families” theme is carried out in the first workshop on Saturday morning, offered by author and birder Bill Fenimore. Saturday workshops are free and feature many live birds.
Another great feature of the Festival is the annual Student Art Contest. The contest is open to Utah students in pre-school through 12th grade. In recent years, the festival has received several hundred exceptional entries from students all over the state. All student art is on exhibit at the Festival from 12–7 p.m. on Friday, May 15, and from 10 a.m. –6 p.m. on Saturday, May 16.  Art Contest information and entry form is on the web site.  Entries are due May 4, 2015.
The Festival hosts a vendor fair on Friday afternoon and all day Saturday. Interested vendors—both businesses and non-profit organizations—should fill out the vendor application found online at
Registration for field trips for the 2015 Festival begins on-line March 2, 2015

Vendor applications accepted through April 30, 2015. Program listing is on-line and program booklets can be picked up at the Davis County Administration Building Room 304, 61 S. Main Farmington, Wild About Birds Nature Center/Layton, Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, or Feed the Birds/Bountiful.


Why We Care

  • While photographing at The Great Salt Lake, I learned that it is a vastly different experience than other bodies of water. It is other-worldy, eerie, and beautiful at the same time. It is calming, peaceful, and a very inspirational place to be. Some may call the experience spiritual. Others may call it freeing. I call it magical.

    My favorite quote is by Loren Eisley; “If there is magic in this world, it is contained in water.” I absolutely believe that The Great Salt Lake is a place of magic, and that is what I strive to showcase.

    -- Tylyn Cullison, Alfred Lambourne Prize Participant