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Utah leaders close to picking a new 'Great Salt Lake czar'

Posted at 3:38 PM, May 09, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY — State leaders interviewed job candidates on Tuesday for a point-person to oversee efforts to save the Great Salt Lake.

Governor Spencer Cox, House Speaker Brad Wilson and Senate President J. Stuart Adams personally interviewed potential candidates for the Great Salt Lake Commissioner position created by the legislature earlier this year.

"I think it signals how absolutely committed we are to making sure the Great Salt Lake is here to stay," Speaker Wilson, R-Kaysville, told FOX 13 News following a round of job interviews.

The Speaker said he was impressed with the candidates and a final decision is expected in the next few days. The Utah State Senate will then vote on confirming the appointment.

The commissioner will oversee state efforts to revive the lake, which hit a historic low last year. What makes the position unique is they can overrule agencies, if needed, to protect the Great Salt Lake.

"We have a dozen or so different entities that all touch the lake, work on the lake, but there had been nothing until this legislation requiring them to collaborate and work together. That’s what this commissioner will do is quarterback that, make sure everyone’s singing from the same sheet of music so ultimately we have confidence in this plan," Speaker Wilson said.

The lake dropped to its lowest level in recorded history last year as a result of water diversion, drought and climate change. It has rebounded about four feet thanks to record snowfall, but is still about six feet below what is considered a healthy level.

Alarmed by the lake's decline and the potential for reduced snowpack, increased toxic dust storms and impacts to public health and wildlife, the Utah State Legislature has passed many water conservation bills and spent millions of dollars on efforts to turn things around.

Once confirmed by the Senate, one of the first duties of the Great Salt Lake Commissioner will be to craft a strategic plan to manage the lake's recovery.

"The Great Salt Lake Commissioner is a game changer. Having a point person whose sole job is to coordinate with state agencies, researchers and industry will make a critical difference in the preservation of the Great Salt Lake. We’re excited to put this key position to work," Gov. Cox said in a statement to FOX 13 News.

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 — and what can be done to make a difference before it is too late.