Despite the Great Salt Lake sinking daily, Gov. Norm Bangerter said Thursday he hopes to persuade the Air Force to allow the state to continue pumping water into the West Desert.
Although news of a pump shut-off one week before the election would likely hurt Bangerter's re-election efforts, the governor said there is nothing political about his reasons for keeping the $70 million pumps going.Amax, a company located along the western border of the Great Salt Lake, has invested $30 million in a project that requires the pumping to continue, Bangerter said at his monthly televised news conference.
"It's vital to Utah for this (pumping) to continue."
Bangerter said he hopes to reach a new agreement with Air Force officials allowing the pumps to remain open. The state originally agreed to turn the pumps off if the lake fell below the 4,206.7-foot level. Air Force officials are worried about the newly formed lake in the West Desert affecting their bombing ranges.
"We would hope to have an agreement, verbal or otherwise, to continue beyond that point," Bangerter said.
Earlier this month, officials measured the lake at exactly 4,206.7 feet. The next measurement is scheduled for Nov. 1.
Bangerter said he wants the pumps to stay on another 30 to 60 days. Meanwhile, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ted Wilson has criticized the governor for starting the expensive pumping project when the lake level was reaching its highest point in history.