Utah leaders close to electing new ‘Great Salt Lake Tsar’

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Two kayakers swim on the Great Salt Lake on Thursday, April 6, 2023.

State leaders on Tuesday interviewed job applicants for a liaison to oversee efforts to save the Great Salt Lake.

Governor Spencer Cox, Speaker of the House Brad Wilson and Senate Speaker J. Stuart Adams personally interviewed potential candidates for the position of Great Salt Lake Commissioner, which lawmakers created earlier this year.

“I think it shows how committed we are to the preservation of the Great Salt Lake,” spokesman Wilson, R-Kaysville, told FOX 13 News after a series of job interviews.

The spokesman said he was impressed with the candidates and a final decision is expected in the next few days. The Utah State Senate will then vote to confirm the appointment.

The commissioner will oversee government efforts to revitalize the lake, which hit an all-time low last year. What is special about this position is that they can overrule authorities if necessary to protect the Great Salt Lake.

“We have about a dozen different companies that all touch and work on the lake, but until this legislation there was nothing that required them to work together and work together. That’s what this commissioner is going to do as quarterback to make sure everyone is singing to the same tune so that we ultimately have faith in that plan,” spokesman Wilson said.

The lake sank to its lowest level on record last year due to water diversion, drought and climate change. Thanks to record snowfall, precipitation has increased by about a meter, but is still about two meters below what is considered healthy levels.

Alarmed by the lake’s decline and the possibility of reduced snow cover, increasing toxic dust storms, and impacts on public health and wildlife, the Utah state legislature has passed numerous water conservation laws and spent millions of dollars in efforts to change the situation.

Upon Senate confirmation, one of the first tasks of the Great Salt Lake Commissioner will be to develop a strategic plan to address the lake’s restoration.

“The Great Salt Lake Commissioner is a game changer. Having one point of contact whose sole purpose is to coordinate with government agencies, researchers and industry will make a critical difference in the conservation of the Great Salt Lake. We are pleased to put this key position into action,” Gov. Cox said in a statement to FOX 13 News.

This article is published on the Great Salt Lake Cooperationa solutions journalism initiative that brings together news, education and media organizations to educate people about the plight of the Great Salt Lake — and what can be done to make a difference before it’s too late.

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

Justin Scaccy

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