Great Salt Lake trust issues $8.5M to 8 projects seeking to protect lake’s wetlands

Nov 8, 2023, 1:50 PM

Great Salt Lake wetlands...

The Great Salt Lake wetlands near Corinne, Box Elder County, on July 13, 2022. The Great Salt Lake Watershed Enhancement Trust announced that it will send about $8.5 million in grant funds to help projects that protect the Great Salt Lake’s wetlands. (Ben B. Braun/Deseret News)

(Ben B. Braun/Deseret News)

Editor’s note: This article is published through the Great Salt Lake Collaborative, a solutions journalism initiative that partners news, education and media organizations to help inform people about the plight of the Great Salt Lake.

SALT LAKE CITY — The Great Salt Lake Watershed Enhancement Trust announced Tuesday that it is sending a little more than $8.5 million in grant funds over the next two years to help fund projects that seek to preserve wetlands by the Great Salt Lake.

Combined, the projects are expected to “protect and enhance” more than 13,000 acres of the lake’s wetlands, trust officials say. They add that wetlands are important because they provide “incomparable services” like water filtration and flood control, as well as habitat and food for wildlife by the Great Salt Lake.

“We are excited to direct funding to collaborative projects that will conserve and restore wetlands and their important connections to sustaining Great Salt Lake’s water flows and the quality of life for surrounding communities,” said Marcelle Shoop, executive director of the Great Salt Lake Watershed Enhancement Trust, in a statement.

All eight projects were selected by non-applicant members of the Trust Advisory Council, which formed earlier this year after Utah leaders picked the National Audubon Society and The Nature Conservancy to lead the trust. The decisions were made after Great Salt Lake ecosystem experts initially screened and ranked project proposals through a review process.

Ducks Unlimited ultimately received the most grants, receiving money for four projects all over the region. The conservation nonprofit is set to receive nearly $5.6 million combined for its projects, which aim to improve water infrastructure close to or in Farmington and Ogden bays.

The group, which is setting aside about $1.5 million of its own money to complete the projects, estimates that the four projects could protect a little more than 10,800 acres of wetlands between both areas, according to a report compiled by the trust.

Meanwhile, the Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities is slated to receive more than $2.2 million toward its nearly $6.7 million project to restore riparian areas, wetlands, and upland habitat areas near the lake’s southern shoreline, the costliest total project among the eight grant recipients.

Salt Lake City officials say they plan to use the money to acquire about 200 acres of undeveloped land next to Great Salt Lake wetlands that will be preserved through conservation easements. The long-term plan calls for ways to improve the ecology and flow of water from the property to the Great Salt Lake.

“We are extremely grateful to the state for its foresight in creating and funding the (trust) to benefit Great Salt Lake and its wetlands,” said Salt Lake City Public Utilities director Laura Briefer, in a statement. “The selection of this land conservation project for funding is a catalyst for the long-term stewardship of the Great Salt Lake shoreline.”

The Nature Conservancy, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service were all selected to receive a portion of the $8.5 million, as well. Trust officials say they are currently working to set up funding agreements with the grant winters so all of the projects can begin as early as next year.

The 8 projects set to receive funding from the Great Salt Lake Watershed Enhancement Trust

Blackhawk Water Control Structures (Utah Division of Wildlife Resources)

  • Grant amount: $125,625
  • Match: $41,875
  • Total project amount: $167,500

State Canal Dam-Burnham Dam (Ducks Unlimited)

  • Grant amount: $1,153,637
  • Match: $297,184
  • Total project amount: $1,450,821

South Shore of Great Salt Lake – Wetlands and Habitat Preservation and Restoration  (Salt Lake City Public Utilities)

  • Grant amount: $2,226,195
  • Match: At least $4,456,000
  • Total project amount: $6,682,195

Burton Dam and Sewage Canal  (Ducks Unlimited)

  • Grant amount: $683,112
  • Match: $176,373
  • Total project amount: $859,484

West Layton Marsh Restoration  (The Nature Conservancy)

  • Grant amount: $789,443
  • Match: $363,954
  • Total project amount: $1,153,397

Bypass Canal: Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area  (Ducks Unlimited)

  • Grant amount: $785,742
  • Match: $420,050
  • Total project amount: $1,205,792

Monitoring flows from Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge to Great Salt Lake  (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

  • Grant amount: $385,532
  • Match: $186,666
  • Total project amount: $572,198

South Run and Unit 2 Restoration: Ogden Bay Waterfowl Management Area   (Ducks Unlimited)

  • Grant amount: $2,376,057
  • Match: $597,673
  • Total project amount: $2,973,730

All of the grant funding comes from the $40 million that the Utah Legislature set aside last year to create the Great Salt Lake Watershed Enhancement Program. Both the trust and program were created to help get water back to the struggling Great Salt Lake, which fell to an all-time low again in 2022.

The law that created the program included a note that the trust “shall use no less than 25% of the grant money to protect and restore wetlands and habitats in the Great Salt Lake’s surrounding ecosystem.”

Ben Stireman, deputy director for Lands & Minerals for the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands, said he believes the projects that received grants Tuesday will help toward that goal.

“These projects and the organizations implementing them, with their expertise and drive, will have long-lasting impacts on the lake and its systems,” he said. “I’m looking forward to seeing the projects on the ground, which will meaningfully restore and protect wetlands — an indispensable natural resource.”

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Great Salt Lake trust issues $8.5M to 8 projects seeking to protect lake’s wetlands