The Great Salt Lake's Evaporating Shorelines

Apr 19, 2012

Utah's Department of Natural Resources is updating the Great Salt Lake Comprehensive Management Plan and its mineral leasing plan and is taking public comment on the plan until April 26. In addition, Great Salt Lake Mineral applied for a permit for evaporation ponds on 91,000 acres of the lake. The Army Corp of Engineers is working on a draft environmental impact statement.

Shirley Erickson Gorospe is Director of Evaporating Shorelines, a nonprofit organization responsible for producing a documentary of the same name.

She explains the evaporation pond industry on the Great Salt Lake to UPR's Ashley Tolman:

"There are several companies that evaporate water on the Great Salt Lake. They take the water and pump it out of the lake into the evaporation ponds and then they process it. Through the evaporation process they collect minerals like potassium, which is used in fertilizer."

It's easy to see the evaporation ponds when you fly over the Great Salt Lake. The companies build up walls of earth and stone to create the ponds like swimming pools. According to Gorospe the problem is that:

"The Great Salt Lake is held in public trust for the people of the state of Utah. It's managed by the Department of Natural Resources for the people of the state of Utah and it's managed for multiple use, but there's a law that says that the Department of Natural Resources has to encourage mineral leasing and petrochemical leasing on the Great Salt Lake and because of that law they keep handing out leases even though the scientists at the Department of Natural Resources have stated that the Great Salt Lake is a fragile ecosystem."

The Lake is on an important flyway for migratory birds. Evaporation ponds destroy habitat for these migratory birds. There are no aquatic plants that can grow in the evaporation ponds and no food for the birds.

Evaporating Shorelines encourages public comment on the DNR's management plan for the Great Salt Lake by April 26. To comment send an email to lvernon@swca.com.

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