Question by Tim Heiple, Murray area, Utah 

Yes, says Laura Vernon, Great Salt Lake Coordinator with the Utah Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry, Fire, and State Lands.

The lake needs to reach an elevation of 4200 feet for nearly all of the lake’s resources to be healthy, Vernon told the Great Salt Lake Collaborative. Those resources include recreation, bird habitat, wetland conservation and brine shrimp harvesting.

“We haven’t been at an elevation of 4,200 for quite some time … I know it’s been over 10 years,” said Vernon. 

The challenge to bring Great Salt Lake water levels back to this elevation has been heightened by extended droughts and low-water years. 

Vernon doesn’t think it’s possible to refill the lake to 4200 feet. She is more interested in ways to help the lake now. 

“We have to figure out how to adapt and manage the lake at the level we’re at right now, which is 4191.”

Adding nine feet doesn’t seem like much, but to get that spread over 1,700 square miles of the lake would require the equivalent of two Bear Lakes, according to Utah State researcher Sarah Null.

—Reported and written by McCaulee Blackburn