Great Salt Lake’s north arm reached record low levels this year, for the second time consecutively according to the latest U.S. Geological Survey report.
Once a vast inland sea, the Great Salt Lake was divided in the north arm and the south arm when a railroad construction project cut through in the 1950s. The causeway separated the north arm of the Great Salt Lake and the south arm. Nonetheless, in 1984, a breach developed to manage flooding in the richer south arm restored communication between the two arms of the Great Salt Lake.
The recent drought took its toll here as well. With rising temperatures and no rainfall, the breach which kept the two arms communicating is now dry. Thus, Great Salt Lake’s north arm reached record low levels this year again. The U.S. Geological Survey report states that the north arm’s current elevation is 4,191.6 feet. Last year’s record low level was approximately one foot above this year’s record. The south arm was also measured to be at 4,192.5 feet this year.
The alarming milestone is drawing in new management plans for the north arm of the Great Salt Lake. New protocols need to be set in place for the significant economic contributions to be salvaged and the ecological benefits to be protected.
The Great Salt Lake’s north arm, unlike the south arm doesn’t benefit from water flow from other sources. Several rivers feed the south arm. In addition, wastewater facilities are also feeding the south arm, keeping its elevation one foot above that of the Great Salt Lake north arm. However, the extended drought is endangering both arms at the moment. The following months are expected to bring even lower elevations.
According to Cory Angeroth of the U.S. Geological Survey,
“There is a chance the south arm of the Great Salt Lake could reach a historic low in 2016, but it depends on the amount of precipitation we get through the winter and spring months”.
Currently, authorities are hoping that the snowpack currently accumulating in the mountains is a positive sign for both arms of the Great Salt Lake. Weather forecasts predict even further storms. Thus, conditions might be created for the elevation to rise in 2016.
Nonetheless, Utah’s Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands doesn’t accept any more mineral leasing applications. In addition, several approvals for upcoming dredging operations are taking precedence.
At the same time, the Union Pacific Railroad, the company which built the railroad and causeway in the 1950s began a new bridge and deeper causeway construction project this fall. When it is completed, the breach between the two arms of the Great Salt Lake should become even deeper, allowing for better communication.
Photo Credits: Flickr