SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Rep. Joel Ferry (R-Brigham City), who in May voted to authorize a study of a pipeline from the Pacific Ocean to fill the draining Great Salt Lake, was featured prominently in The New York Times on Wednesday in an article titled As the Great Salt Lake Dries Up, Utah Faces An ‘Environmental Nuclear Bomb.’
Ferry told the writer, D.C.-based Christopher Flavelle, that Utah has “this potential environmental nuclear bomb that’s going to go off if we don’t take some pretty dramatic action.”
State officials said earlier this year that the Great Salt Lake is projected to fall two feet this year, which would be a new historic low. The body of water has dropped 11 feet since records were first taken in the 1800s.
The exposed lake bed contains high levels of arsenic, and as the water level continues to fall, it could leave wind storms to create a harmful environment for residents of the Wasatch Front. Other concerns include losing the vital lake effect for snow precipitation in the mountains.
Ferry is a co-chair of the Legislative Water Development Commission, the body that approved the pipeline study last month. When asked by Fox13 reporter Ben Winslow if the legislators were “actually serious about the idea,” Ferry said:
“Oh no, we’re dead serious about this. I mean, Ben, desperate times call for desperate measures and all options are on the table.”
Ferry, a fifth-generation farmer, played a role in multiple water-related bills signed by Gov. Cox earlier this year.
The pipeline study will analyze the cost (likely billions) of creating a pipeline that would stretch across the desert and the Sierra-Nevada mountains.
The Times article explores the idea of higher prices for water in growing Salt Lake City — Mayor Erin Mendenhall declined to be interviewed for the piece. According to a 2017 Department of Energy Report, SLC has one of the lowest per-gallon water rates among major U.S. cities.
Last year residents used 96 gallons of water per person per day. By comparison, that figure was 77 in Los Angeles.
Utah Rivers Council Executive Director Zachary Frankel is quoted saying, “prices drive consumption.”