OGDEN, Utah — The idea of a pipeline from the Pacific Ocean to the Great Salt Lake has raised eyebrows and made some snicker.
FOX 13 News first reported on the idea in May when the Utah State Legislature's Water Development Commission authorized a study on the feasibility of it. At House Speaker Brad Wilson's second Great Salt Lake summit on Thursday, a projected cost to make the idea a reality was given out.
Utah Department of Natural Resources Executive Director Joel Ferry told the crowd that a pipeline would cost anywhere from $60-100 billion. That does not include environmental and regulatory hurdles to even make it a reality.
Speaker Wilson quipped it may be more of a "pipe dream." Ferry said DNR was not setting aside any money right now for any pipeline.
In an interview with FOX 13 News, Ferry (who was a state lawmaker on the commission that authorized the study) acknowledged it would be difficult to implement. However, he insisted the state was keeping all options open.
"I think when we look at the seriousness of Great Salt Lake and the potential impact that has to the way of life here, we have to address every issue," he said.
Speaking at the summit, Ferry said DNR was looking at expanding cloud seeding. Currently, the state budgets $350,000 for it annually. He floated the idea of asking for up to $2 million to increase its use across the state as a way of helping to juice water supplies.
But Ferry said perhaps the best solution is the cheapest — water conservation.
"Conservation has to be our first choice. Across the board. Period," he told FOX 13 News. "Not only our first choice. It’s our most cost-effective choice. So before we get to spending tens of billions of dollars building pipes somewhere, let’s do conservation. Let’s do 100% conservation."
The Utah State Legislature passed a series of bills earlier this year designed to push water conservation including an expansion of secondary water metering to track outdoor water use; incentives for agriculture producers to switch to water-saving technologies; and blocking HOAs and cities from insisting on lush, turf-only lawns.
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. Read all of our stories at greatsaltlakenews.org.