Utah's $60 million Great Salt Lake West Desert Pumping Project was honored by the American Society of Civil Engineers as the group started a national convention Monday.

The unprecedented flood control project, conceived and constructed in record time, was named winner of an Award of Merit in the society's 1988 Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement Award competition."The citation recognizes engineering projects that demonstrate the greatest engineering skills and represent the greatest contribution to civil engineering progress and mankind," the 100,000-member engineers' group said.

The Utah Legislature authorized $60 million in May 1986 to the Utah Water Resources Division to construct the project.

Construction started in July 1986, the first pump was operating in April 1987 and the project was in full operation in June 1987, the society said, adding, "a project of this magnitude would normally require an estimated 22 to 24 months to construct."

So far about 1.3 million acre-feet of water have been pumped to a desert evaporation pond west of the lake and the pumping project is responsible for about 10 inches of the water level's decline, the society said.