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Great Salt Lake experts take to the sky to view lake’s recent growth

This season’s record snowpack means good news for the Great Salt Lake. It has already risen a few feet, and the runoff has barely just started.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Great Salt Lake shows signs of improvement on Wednesday, April 12, 2023, near the outflow of the Weber River where areas that used to be bone-dry just weeks before have been covered with a few inches of water improving bird habitat and reducing dust.

This season’s record snowpack means good news for the Great Salt Lake. It has already risen a few feet, and the runoff has barely just started.

“Definitely a sigh of relief to see more water, and parts that were previously dry are now covered in water, so definitely a happy time,” said Marisa Weinberg, the interim Great Salt Lake coordinator with the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands.

Weinberg was one of the passengers on Tuesday morning’s “Ecoflight,” where experts and enthusiasts fly over the Great Salt Lake to get a bird’s eye view.

“You go out there now and you see water kind of almost everywhere,” said Timothy Hawkes, a former legislator and general counsel for the Great Salt Lake Brine Shrimp Cooperative. “It’s very thin, but it’s out there. And that’s just really great to see.”

The lake has risen over 4 feet after reaching a historic low last November.

“It’s incredible to see water now spilling over the berm and into the north arm, and knowing that we have so much snow that is yet to melt and we’re just going to see it continue to rise,” said Weinberg.

FOX 13 News went up with Ecoflight back in August, and the views from then compared to now are starkly different. Where there was exposed lake bed last fall, now there is actually water filled all over.

“It was kind of devastating to see so many areas of the lake desiccated,” Katie Newburn with Friends of Great Salt Lake. “Today to see those areas that were all exposed just a few months ago now covered back over with water… that is just so encouraging to see.”

You can see water filling wetlands, reservoirs rising, and ponds with more water than they had last fall.

“It’s just so good for that ecosystem, it’s good for the industries that rely on the lake, good for people that recreate out there, it’s good to keep the dust down which is something people worry about,” said Hawkes. “Seeing more water is just great on so many levels.”

But this past winter doesn’t mean the lake is saved.

“Really is just giving us a little bit more time to implement these longer-term measures through policy and management,” said Weinberg. “We’re not going to let the lake die. There’s too many people that care too much.”

This story was first published by Fox 13 News. The Salt Lake Tribune and Fox 13 News are content-sharing partners.