SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah National Guard will fly dozens of lawmakers over the Great Salt Lake so they can see first-hand how far it has shrunk, FOX 13 News has learned.
Rep. Doug Owens, D-Millcreek, has organized the trips, which will begin tomorrow. Nearly all legislators will be loaded into Blackhawk helicopters for the tours (which will also serve as a training exercise for the Guard). Lawmakers will get aerial views of the lake to better understand the magnitude of the problem.
"I think when you see the problem first-hand it just has an impact. A picture’s worth a thousand words," Rep. Owens told FOX 13 News in an interview Monday. "People need to see the problem developing out there and there’s some big bills coming through that they need to have an understanding what the situation is so that they’ll be ready to vote on those and know what they’re doing."
The trips have the support of House leadership, which has tried to rally lawmakers to back bipartisan bills that try to preserve and restore the lake. The Great Salt Lake, one of North America's largest bodies of water, has shrunk dramatically as a result of impacts from drought, climate change and water diversion. A shrinking lake could lead to changes in Utah's snowpack and toxic dust storms that will impact the Wasatch Front.
House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, has been involved in efforts to save the Great Salt Lake, hosting lawmakers and environmentalists at a summit on it. FOX 13 News has confirmed he is personally running a new bill centered around the lake's watershed. Governor Spencer Cox has budgeted $50 million toward preservation efforts.