Ignoring the Negative Effects of Large Scale Water Diversion Projects

With Utah lakes just inches from their lowest level in recorded history, the Utah state water salesmen, the developer-driven legislature and the state's political machine continue to ignore the negative effects of large scale water diversion projects on both human and wildlife populations.

Now, a new BYU study blames a shrinking Great Salt Lake and other vanishing water bodies for 90% of northern Utah’s toxic dust. As more dust is exposed by a diminished water inflow into the GSL, the amounts of nasty dust thrust into Utah's lungs will rocket.

It's on the books and very quietly being funded. The Bear River Diversion. Sure to create unfathomable more dust all along the Wasatch. The State of Utah's plan is to divert 20% of the output of the Bear River--water desperately needed by the GSL.

Meanwhile, a few years ago, the Utah political machine quietly set up a sales tax slush fund to build the Lake Powell Pipeline and Bear River Diversion. Done with barely a fight on the vote--I may have been the only NO vote in the Senate (they called me their biggest pejorative, 'anti-development').

So, the Bear River Diversion in hushed tones plods on – spending taxpayer’s money.

The Bear River is the primary freshwater source feeding the GSL ecosystem, one of the largest remaining wetlands in the US, for the supposed purpose of meeting the requirements of an expanding population that otherwise would not have sufficient water to meet their needs.

The $2 billion Bear River Diversion project would divert 220,000 acre-feet of fresh Bear River water captured through construction of three new dams upriver of the Great Salt Lake for delivery to four Utah Water Conservancy Districts via a newly constructed pipeline. Diversion of this amount of water would significantly lower lake levels and in the process, destroy massive amounts of Utah’s remaining wetlands directly impacting more than eight million migratory birds of more than 230 species that travel a flyway that extends from Alaska to Terra del Fuego. As a critical stop along the migratory path, the Great Salt Lake wetlands are absolutely critical to the existence of these bird populations.

In the past 150 years, human diversions have reduced the amount of water flowing into the Great Salt Lake by nearly 40 percent. With the additional effects of drought and climate change, the level of the lake has dropped by nearly 11 feet. As a consequence, since 1973 migratory shorebird populations have decreased by nearly 70 percent. Currently, the lake's volume is about half what it would be otherwise and approximately 550 square miles of lakebed are now exposed. Any additional lakebed exposure will only act to increase the distribution of airborne dust particles flowing into an already polluted Wasatch Front air shed that has recently been designated as a non-attainment area by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Despite the data that supports the need to explore all possible alternatives to new diversions and pipelines, the recently released Recommended State Water Strategy, compiled by the Governor’s Water Strategy Team and (facilitated by the not to be trusted to be impartial, Gov's best buddy, million-taxpayer-dollar contracted Envision Utah), continues to support construction of huge diversion projects such as the BRD and Lake Powell Pipeline:

“Utah should move forward now with planning and preliminary permitting efforts to keep options open to claim Utah’s share of interstate river allocations. Development of the two-State authorized projects, the Bear River and the Lake Powell projects, on interstate rivers should be coordinated with the development of regional and local water projects.”

With lake levels just inches from their lowest level in recorded history, Utah water salesmen continue to ignore the negative effects of large scale diversion projects on both human and wildlife populations.

For more info---join and watch the work of The Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club (responsible for much of this content), Great Salt Lake Alliance and the Utah Rivers Council. These groups and other non-profits are the only pushback to the sneaky, secret builders cabal political machine that runs the state.

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