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Great Salt Lake sees levels rising

Posted at 6:38 PM, Apr 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-26 21:40:11-04

SALT LAKE CITY – More than a billion dollars of Utah’s economy comes from the Great Salt Lake, according to Great Salt Lake Marina Harbor Master Dave Shearer.

When the lake levels are good, so is the economy.

Snowpack levels are about 150-to-180 percent above-average throughout the state, meaning levels in the Great Salt Lake will rise 2-to-3 feet higher than last year.

“Things are looking up, we really need this,” said Shearer.

It’s a big deal for anyone who plays at the beach, goes boating but also for those who play in the snow up in the mountains — the Great Salt Lake even affects the water we drink.

It all comes down to how storm systems pass over the lake. Shearer said cold storm fronts come across the warm lake and it acts as a “turbo charge,” dumping snow out onto the mountains.

“Without the Great Salt Lake and that lake-effect snow, those mountains would be pretty dry,” said Shearer.

It’s been pretty dry in Utah for the past twenty years.

Fifty percent of the lake levels comes from precipitation, but the other half comes from snowpack. Though this year has been above average, hydrologist Brian McInerney with the National Weather Services said it will take years to recover from this dry spell.

“We’ll probably need upwards of 10-to-15 years of above-average runoff,” said McInerney. “That means above-average run off all the way at the outlet of the Weber and the outlet of the Bear River that goes into the Great Salt Lake.”

The last time the lake saw record levels was back in 2011 when the lake rose five feet.