On February 18, 2022, Audubon's Saline Lakes Program Director gave the following testimony to the Utah House Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Committee, in favor of HB 410, the Great Salt Lake Watershed Enhancement Program sponsored by House Speaker Brad Wilson. The bill would provide $40 million to establish a water trust to retain or enhance water flows for Great Salt Lake and conserve and restore wetlands and habitats to benefit lake hydrology. UPDATE: March 2, 2022. The bill will be sent to the Governor for a signature after passing unanimously out of both the Utah House and Senate.
Thank you Chair and Committee members. My name is Marcelle Shoop, the Director of the Saline Lakes Program for National Audubon Society.
We support this landmark bill to address water challenges facing Great Salt Lake.
Great Salt Lake is a top priority for Audubon, given the millions of birds that rely on it and its immense value to the overall well-being of our society.
For more than a quarter century, Audubon has managed the Gillmor Sanctuary on the southern shores of the lake, for the benefit of a variety of waterbirds.
The substantial initial investment to establish a water trust provides a critical tool among many needed solutions for preserving the lake. The approach is well-aligned with one of the 16 strategic opportunities identified by the Great Salt Lake HCR10 Steering Group– that is, the need for innovative and sustainable sources of funding to ensure water for the lake.
Coupled with initiatives before the legislature this session, such as instream flow amendments, and water policies changes made over the last few years, the trust can help fund projects or voluntary transactions to deliver water to the lake or improve or preserve wetlands and important hydrologic connections. There are many possibilities. It could open the door to creative projects with nearby farmers to sustain return flows to the lake or work synergistically with water optimization projects. The trust could potentially support additional water flows to improve water quality in tributaries such as the Jordan River, with the end beneficiary being the lake and nearby wetlands.
Collaboration across a range of interests and stakeholders in the Great Salt Lake watershed will be key to achieving the goals of this legislation. We look forward to contributing to that process.
We are grateful for the leadership of Speaker Wilson, as well as the efforts of many dedicated legislators, to advance solutions like this for Great Salt Lake.