Recent storms increase the Great Salt Lake’s water levels

Jan 12, 2023, 6:19 PM | Updated: 7:29 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — In trying to save the Great Salt Lake, there is a long way to go. However, finally, there is a little bit of a reason to smile.

“I am excited. This is hopeful. This is very hopeful,” Dave Shearer said while looking up at the snow in the mountains.

Shearer is the manager at Great Salt Lake State Park.

He has been at the lake since before most people knew there was a stage worse than extreme drought.

So, when he noticed water back in the marina recently, he had to smile.

“These docks were floating in the mud a month ago. Now, they’re all floating in water, which is great,” he said.

As of Thursday, the lake is up one foot since its historic low last November. Last year, the lake only rose one foot total after the spring runoff before receding to low levels no one alive has ever seen.

“We weren’t really expecting that after the last 20 years we’ve had, so it’s good to be on this side of it for once,” said Shearer.

Every single boat is currently out of the Great Salt Lake Marina, but there’s a chance some of them may be able to go back into the water later this year.

That would include the state’s search and rescue boat. Shearer says that wasn’t part of the plan for this year.

“I don’t want to get people too excited yet, but we weren’t talking about that a month ago. Now we think there’s a chance of it,” he said. “We are at 185% snowpack for the Great Salt Lake drainage, which is just awesome.”

“There is a glimmer of hope indeed,” said Laura Vernon, who is the communications director for Utah’s Division of Water Resources.

Vernon says while it’s been great to see the lake rise, it is nowhere near where anyone is comfortable.

The Great Salt Lake is still in danger because of low water levels, and she says serious work, conservation, and legislative efforts are still needed to try and reverse the shrinking trend.

“All this precipitation is kind of letting us catch our breath and really get to work on finding solutions to bring water to the lake,” said Vernon. “So, our work is not done. In fact, it’s hardly getting started, and there’s plenty more to do and we recognize that.”

Vernon also mentioned a the causeway breach that was filled with four feet of soil this past June may have had an effect on lake levels.

“That kind of speed bump may have slowed down some of the water moving into the north arm, so its more backing up or kind of hanging out in the south arm,” she said. “But we are continuing to research that and trying to understand further if that’s contributing to the rapid rise in elevation.”

At least for now, though, it has been the kind of winter to celebrate.

“Well, the snow plowing gets a little old,” said Shearer with a laugh. “But other than that, the rest of it is positive.”

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Recent storms increase the Great Salt Lake’s water levels