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Great Salt Lake at Lowest Level Since 1970

Great Salt Lake at Lowest Level Since 1970

Posted - May 19, 2004 at 7:47 a.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Great Salt Lake is at its lowest level since 1970, preventing launching of larger boats at Antelope Island and providing a bigger area for mosquitoes to hatch.

Great Salt Lake at Lowest Level Since 1970

Fremont and Gunnison are the only two true islands in the lake at this time, said Wallace Gwynn of the Utah Geological Survey. The lake's other islands now have land connections to the shore.

The lake's elevation of 4,196.3 feet above sea level is about a foot lower than last year at this time and the lowest it's been since 1970.

By fall, the lake is expected to drop to about 4,194 feet, its lowest level since 1967. The lake's lowest level since measurements began was 4,191.3 in 1963.

At its historic peak of 4,211.6 feet in 1987, the lake covered 3,300 square miles. Now it covers only about 1,200 square miles.

Great Salt Lake at Lowest Level Since 1970

Gary Hatch of the Davis Mosquito Abatement District said the reduced size of the lake means more area that will need to be sprayed to control mosquitoes.

"It makes our job a little more interesting," he said. "It exposes more marsh."

Ron Taylor, Antelope Island State Park manager, said large boats won't be able to use the marina this year. The marina has less than 4 feet of water, essentially closing it to everything except small power boats, kayaks, canoes and small sailboats, he said.

Bird sanctuaries are now accessible by wading, but Taylor said visitors are asked to stay away from these sensitive locations.

Christopher Quick, park manager for the Great Salt Lake State Marina on the south shore, said he's only had to eliminate the largest of boats so far.

"We have 6 to 61/2 feet of water in the marina now," he said.

That makes most 35-foot and larger boats unable to use the marina. If the lake does another foot this year, boats 25 feet and larger boats won't be able to launch from the marina.

Steve Ingram, owner of Salt Island Adventures, which offers regular boat cruises on the Great Salt Lake, said he does not foresee any problems with his business this year because of the low lake levels, but does worry about the publicity.

"I've seen predictions come and go," he said. "It all seems to be the flip of a coin."

Gwynn said the shrinking lake could create an even greater dust bowl in the southern portion of Farmington Bay than it did last year, and could result in more of a "lake stink" problem for Davis County communities. "

Salinity in the south arm of the lake could increase from the 15-16 percent range to 16-17 percent. The portion north of the causeway has been close to the saturation point for years.

Gwynn doesn't think the increased salinity in the south arm will hurt the lake's brine shrimp population, but the lower water level may mean the mineral-extraction industries will have to deepen their intake canals.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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