Bonneville Salt Flats to be studied closely
SALT LAKE CITY — Scientific data is being collected to better understand a variety of effects on the famed Bonneville Salt Flats. A collaborative effort between the Utah Geological Survey, University of Utah, Bureau of Land Management, Intrepid Potash and the land speed racing community is studying how climate, racing, salt laydown and potash mining impacts growth, salt dissolution and sustainability.
UGS director Bill Keach noted that $1 million was appropriated in the 2020 legislative session to study the salt flats. Staff then reached out to various entities to determine current conditions, groundwater and future management plans. The Bureau of Land Management contributed an additional $125,000 to the project.
A salt laydown initiative was introduced in 1997 with salt being added to the flats. Brine was pumped onto the surface from an adjacent potash mining operation. Last fall, the UGS Groundwater and Wetlands Program staff installed climate and hydrologic monitoring equipment to collect data. Up to 500,000 tons of salt brine will be put in critical areas in the future.
“This project is aimed at understanding the effectiveness of the salt laydown and identifying actions that will allow sustainable mixed use of this landscape, including mining and racing,” said Hugh Hurlow, groundwater program manager. “This work will advance knowledge about the Bonneville Salt Flats system and will reduce uncertainties about the impacts of the salt laydown activities. The results will inform the best path forward to improve the likelihood of mitigation activities that have the desired outcomes and result in a sustained salt crust.”
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