Welcome to lovely Lake Wasatch, Utah's largest fresh-water pond, more than twice the size of Lake Powell, a wonderland of marinas, water sports and wildlife!
Whoa, Lake Whaaat?Lake Wasatch is the brainchild of a coalition of high-powered Utahns who believe the state should create a giant new fresh-water lake by partitioning the Great Salt Lake into two parts by means of a chain of deep-water dikes. The eastern portion, which gets all the fresh water inflow, would become Lake Wasatch.
The Lake Wasatch Coalition announced its plans Friday in a press conference at Zions First National Bank. Two of the coalition's board members are Zion's Bank officers.
The dikes would be built using a new technology in which two precast, rubber-lined walls are sunk deep into the mud of the lake bed. Then sand from the lake is pumped between the walls.
Dikes would be built from Promontory Peninsula to Fremont Island, from Fremont Island to Antelope Island, and finally Antelope Island on to the lake's south shore. Altogether, the dikes would cross 11 miles of open water, cutting off 30 percent of the lake.
Meanwhile, the western 70 percent would be kept lower than the new section. All of the inflow from the Bear, Weber, Jordan and Ogden rivers would pour into the eastern section.
Then, too, the western part would be kept lower by using the three mammoth pumps of the Great Salt Lake Pumping Project at Hogup Ridge, Box Elder County.
If the dikes failed because of an earthquake, a situation that backers don't expect, any flooding would go to the west, away from the most populated regions, because the water level would be kept five or six feet lower in the western section.
New pipes would be installed to conduct sewage system lines to the western part, allowing the eastern section to become cleaner.
Salty, polluted water would flow from the east to the west via openings in the dikes, deep underwater. The hydrologic head created by the higher water level at the east is supposed to keep the water moving in the right direction.
A question yet to be fully resolved is that of the effect of different densities of water. When the western part of the lake is considerably denser, because it is saltier, might the brines migrate back to the east? When water flows through breaches in the causeway that cuts the lake into northern and southern arms, it goes in both directions, at different elevations. The heavier brines in the south cause a flow northward because of the difference in density.
Backers don't think this will be a problem because of the difference in elevations. But if it is, they say, the authority could install an inexpensive pumping system to make certain water flows the right way.
"We expect that within one year we will have the salinity level below 3 percent," said Steven E. Smoot of Wasatch Development Group, the coalition's promotional director. Three percent is comparable to the salinity of the ocean.
After the first year, the lake would continue to freshen as it captures "the tremendous inflow of this fresh water." Eventually it would be of high enough quality for farm irrigation.
Smoot said the new lake would be valuable as a tourist attraction, as a flood control project, and for land reclamation. About 200,000 acres would become "beachfront property" beside a fresh-water lake, he said.
"We see it as a wildlife enhancement project also," Smoot said.
Part of Utah's supposedly dead inland sea "will come alive" with the changes, he said. "It would be really a world-class attraction for this state."
Homes would be built beside the lake, with boat ramps into the fresh water, he said. These homes would be within a few minutes of downtown Salt Lake City.
On Antelope Island, people could chose whether to swim in fresh or salt water, depending on whether they use beaches on the eastern or western side of the island.
W. David Hemingway of Zions First National Bank, one of the group's directors, displayed a bill prepared for this legislative session. If passed, it would set up the authority, with voting representation from the state government, the four counties, Salt Lake City, and two members at large. A ninth member, appointed from Tooele County, would be non-voting.
"Tooele County is outside any taxing district," Hemingway said. "So it's difficult to have representation without any taxation."
But because the county could be affected by what the authority does with the Great Salt Lake, it would be included in the authority's deliberations.
A special taxing district would be established in the four counties, including land near the lake and below the 4217 feet elevation, plus one-mile beyond that level. This is the lake's flood plain.
After hearings, the authority would decide if the people involved want to fund the dikes.
COST: $80 million to $90 million.
FUNDING: Bonds issued by a newly created Great Salt Lake Development Authority.
WHO WOULD PAY: Residents of Salt Lake, Davis, Weber and Box Elder counties.
SIZE: 654 square miles
CAPACITY: 4 million acre-feet
INFLOW: 2.8 million acre-feet annually