Great Salt Lake Is Rising

Great Salt Lake Is Rising

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Great Salt Lake is on the rise again, and that's great news for birds, bugs and boaters.

The lake, which hit a five-year low elevation of 4,194 feet in November, climbed to 4,198 feet this month. That is 11/2 feet higher than a year ago at this time, and much of the higher-elevation runoff is still to come.

"It's a break from the fever of drought," said Lynn de Freitas, executive director of Friends of Great Salt Lake. "We're still below the (historic) average. But the dynamic is beginning to change. Life is beginning to emerge again because of the significant precipitation levels we've been receiving. We're able to see that."

Dried out wetlands are once again turning soggy, creating more habitat for insects and the birds that feed upon them.

One landmark exposed by the drought, artist Robert Smithson's in the lake's north arm, is still visible from the air but again is being swallowed by the lake.

With another 2 or 3 feet of water, Antelope, Stansbury and other islands will be looking less like peninsulas.

The rising water helps some commercial enterprises at the lake while hurting others.

"If you're a mineral extractor, it hurts business because you have to evaporate that much more water to get the minerals out," said Rob Baskin, a U.S. Geological Survey hydrologist. "But if you're a brine shrimper, your boats run aground more often when the lake is low, so this is all good."

Boaters are among those most happy to see the lake on the rise again.

"Back in October we were all expecting that we'd have to pull our boats and close the marina," said Dave Shearer, cruising chairman of the Great Salt Lake Yacht Club. "That, of course, has all changed. The water levels are looking really good and healthy, and that has equated with the excitement levels. Lots of shoals are now being covered up, and the Great Salt Lake Marina is now in pretty solid shape."

Weather Service hydrologist Brian McInerney said the continuing runoff could add another one-half foot to the lake.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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