Great Salt Lake Issues Forum: Bringing People Together for Salty Conversation

By Lynn de Freitas, Guest Blogger

DEQ invites guest bloggers to share their thoughts on issues that impact our environment. We appreciate their insights and the opportunity to broaden the conversation with others in the community.

One of the speakers characterized it as a “room full of bridge builders.” Another remarked, “It’s harder to fix things afterwards than it is to try and figure things out beforehand.”

During three days in May, more than 200 people engaged in a rich and briny conversation about research, planning, and management challenges as well as current issues relevant to the Great Salt Lake at the 2016 Great Salt Lake Issues Forum, hosted by FRIENDS of Great Salt Lake.

But the conversation didn’t stop with the Great Salt Lake. Since the title of the program was “Great Salt Lake in the Big Picture,” it was important to talk about other saline systems within the region — Owens Lake, Mono Lake, and Salton Sea— for a regional context and valuable comparisons. Through this shared experience, participants heard about important lessons learned from scientists, resource managers, policymakers, regulatory agencies, and nonprofit organizations working to restore and protect those systems impacted by water diversions. The takeaway from this shared experience was that, at all costs, we never want to find ourselves and Great Salt Lake in such dire straits.

“Acting in time has translated out to maintain(ing) a viable ecosystem today even though extreme drought conditions exist.” This important take-home message was delivered by Geoff McQuilkin, executive director of the Mono Lake Committee, whose work to restore the public-trust value of Mono Lake kept it from being drained dry from water diversions to Los Angeles.

Owens Lake wasn’t that lucky.

Phill Kiddoo, air pollution control officer for the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District was a keynote speaker at the forum. He’s part of a huge team implementing a long-term strategy to bring the Owens Valley Planning Area back into air quality compliance after being designated a “serious non-attainment area” for PM10 particulate matter by the EPA in 1987.

This ongoing work has been costly.

“From 2000 through the 2017-18 budget year, the price tag to control PM10 emissions at Owens Lake is projected to surpass $2.1 billion,” explained Kiddoo. “Projection of costs for ongoing operations and maintenance with purchasing of water from other sources to offset the 60,000-95,000 acre feet of water used on Owens Lake for dust mitigation, an additional $75 million will be spent annually.”

The forum was also a time to acknowledge the great work done to address the challenges facing the Great Salt Lake. FRIENDS recognized the Great Salt Lake Ecosystem Program (GSLEP) with the 2016 Friend of the Lake Award. Over the past 21 years, GSLEP, a public-private partnership, has succeeded in developing a sustainable management model for a keystone species of the Great Salt Lake Ecosystem – artemia franciscana, the Great Salt Lake brine shrimp. FRIENDS also presented the 2016 Doyle W. Stephens Scholarship to Derek V. Mallia, a Ph.D candidate in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Utah for his work “The Impacts of a Shrinking Great Salt Lake on Future Air Quality.”

What became apparent during the forum is that we – the Great Salt Lake home team – already have a lot going for us. We have an indispensable toolbox to work with. We have an extraordinary endowment of science that continues to inform our understanding about the system. We have effective collaboration that supports open communication and participation. And we have a growing recognition about the importance of integrating these abilities so that we can fulfill our responsibility to effectively sustain this hemispherically valuable ecosystem for future generations.

“It takes special people who care enough and who are adamant enough to stand up and say this needs to be addressed,” concluded Kiddoo.

We couldn’t agree more.

Missed the 2016 forum? A video archive of all presentations will be available soon at You can also check out past forums on our website.
Founded in 1994, FRIENDS of Great Salt Lake is a nonprofit membership organization whose mission is to preserve and protect the Great Salt Lake Ecosystem through education, research, advocacy, and the arts. The long-term vision of the organization is to achieve comprehensive watershed restoration and protection for the Lake.

I began my involvement with FRIENDS shortly after its founding in 1994. I became President of the Board in 1996 and Executive Director in 2002. I am a fulltime volunteer. I especially enjoy working on developing policies that address the unique role and characteristics of the Great Salt Lake to ensure its long-term sustainability. Prior to my affiliation with FRIENDS, I was a library media coordinator for 18 years in both public and private schools in the Salt Lake area. I hold a B.S. in Biology from Montclair State College and an M. Ed in Educational Systems and Learning Resources from the University of Utah. In 2002, I received the Utah Environmental Educator Volunteer of the Year Award from the Utah Society for Environmental Education and in 2006, I received the Calvin K. Sudweeks Award for outstanding contributions in the water quality field in the State of Utah by the Utah Water Quality Board.

In my free time, I am an avid birder, enjoy travel and am learning dressage.

Last updated: February 16, 2021 at 12:19 pm
Categories: News