Gov. Cox appoints inaugural Great Salt Lake Commissioner
SALT LAKE CITY – Gov. Spencer Cox has appointed Brian Steed as the state’s first ever Great Salt Lake Commissioner. The appointment is awaiting the approval of Utah’s State Senate, which is required to fulfill the position.
The State Senate passed a bill to create a Great Salt Lake Commissioner in February of this year, and Cox and members of the Senate have been personally processing and interviewing candidates since the bill passed. The Commissioner will oversee a $40 million Great Salt Lake Trust, assess the needs of the Great Salt Lake, as well as manage any additional money appropriated to it.
“Brian has been a trusted advisor for many years and I appreciate his willingness to re-enter public service at this critical time,” Cox said. “We have a unique opportunity right now to protect and preserve the Great Salt Lake, and Brian’s expertise and passion for the lake will ensure its future is secure for generations to come.”
One of the main reasons Cox and the State Senate felt a need for a Great Salt Lake Commissioner is to bring the multiple state, federal, and non-profit agencies to work together and cooperate under one umbrella. Some of the new division’s powers and duties include preparing and maintaining a comprehensive management plan for the Great Salt Lake, develop strategies to deal with a fluctuating lake level, employ personnel and purchase equipment related to conservation efforts of the lake, and to promote and maintain recreation areas on and surrounding the Great Salt Lake.
“There is perhaps no role more important in the state at this time than that of the new Great Salt Lake commissioner,” said Speaker Brad Wilson. “While no small task, I have the utmost confidence in Brian Steed. He has proved time and time again that he’s capable of tackling big issues and working toward the greater good. I know this will continue as he oversees efforts to protect, preserve, and enhance the Great Salt Lake.”
Steed has experience working for environmental agencies, and is currently executive director of the Janet Quinney Lawson Institute for Land, Water and Air at Utah State University. Previously Steed has served as executive director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources, deputy director of policy and programs and the official exercising of the director of the Bureau of Land Management, and chief of staff to Congressman Chris Stewart.
The Great Salt Lake hit a historic low in July of last year, and although the high levels of precipitation this winter has helped alleviate the shrinking of the Great Salt Lake, Steed will have to tackle issues related to conservation, consumption, and agriculture which have all contributed to the declining water levels.
“I am honored by this nomination and am very excited to continue working on the challenges facing the Great Salt Lake,” Steed said. “The decisions we make today will have a huge impact on the lake and its future, as well as on the quality of life Utahns have historically enjoyed. I am optimistic that by working together we can get it right.”
Steed is now awaiting approval by the Senate, and if approved one of his first tasks will be to begin drafting a plan to manage the Lake’s recovery.