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President Biden signs legislation that may help with Great Salt Lake conservation

Posted at 6:06 PM, Dec 29, 2022

SALT LAKE CITY — President Joe Biden signed legislation Tuesday allocating $25 million to study salt ecosystems in the drought-stricken west coast, including the Great Salt Lake in Utah.

The bill informs the U.S. Geological Survey that it must form an assessment program to monitor the saline lake ecosystems in Great Basin States.

The Great Salt Lake’s water levels reached an all-time low in July 2021 and got to that current all-time low again this year.

“It meant for the first time that our legislators actually took the threats that were that we're being faced seriously,” said Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Utah Kevin Perry.

Perry said this is a massive amount of money compared to the $200,000 set aside each year for research of Utah’s Great Salt Lake by the state legislator.

“Even if only, you know, a third of that goes towards the Great Salt Lake, then it's a huge increase in the ability to try and understand what's going on with this ecosystem and the water,” said Perry.

Perry argued the Great Salt Lake drying up impacts every Utahn, whether it’s the millions of dollars mineral companies have to spend to get water to the state, the dying brine shrimp population, lake effect snow and even people’s health.

One example is the human impact of the dust produced by the Great Salt Lake’s drying lakebed, where Perry’s research has helped identify hazardous chemicals that Utahns may inhale during a dust event.

“The one that we're most concerned about is arsenic. Arsenic is a carcinogen. It can lead to skin cancer, bladder cancer, lung cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease,” said Perry, “And we know that the soil in the great salt lake that gets lofted into these dust blooms contains high concentrations of arsenic. So that's concerning from a health standpoint.”

It’s furthering research like this Perry said he hopes will clue scientists in on how to get the lake back to its historic average.

“The ultimate goal of this bill, which is what I'm so excited about to not only better understand these lakes and their ecosystems, but ultimately to craft solutions for each of these individual lakes, that make sense for those particular lakes. And that is I think in the best interests of everyone in the Western US.”