SALT LAKE CITY — Legislative leaders have been talking about water conservation and saving the Great Salt Lake, going so far as to declare it "Water Week" on Utah's Capitol Hill.

But after a pair of bills have stalled in legislative committees, some are questioning if it's all talk and no action.

"They’re talking about how important the Great Salt Lake is, all they can say is how we want to save the Great Salt Lake and they can't do the bare minimum," said Alex Veilleux with the group Save Our Great Salt Lake.

Veilleux was not happy after Senate Concurrent Resolution 6, which sets a target level for the Great Salt Lake's recovery, stalled in the Senate Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday. The resolution was officially held, putting it in limbo in the overall legislative process.

"I think it’s dead," said Sen. Nate Blouin, D-Salt Lake City, the resolution's sponsor. "There’s potential conversations going on with some of the other groups focused on the salt lake, we could find some common ground and move forward in the future."

Another bill requiring public golf courses to track and publicize the amount of water they used has also been held in committee.

"I'm deeply skeptical about what their talk means if we can’t even get a target established," said Veilleux.

For his part, Sen. Blouin said he didn't feel his resolution stalling was an indictment on the legislature's priorities.

"It’s just a resolution so I'm not too worked up about it. It was really trying be a feel-good sort of thing," he told FOX 13 News.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Senate President J. Stuart Adams insisted lawmakers were addressing water needs and the Great Salt Lake.

"I think you’ll see a half billion dollars or more being spent around water in the state," he said. "I don’t think there’s any lack of commitment to water."

The Great Salt Lake is at its lowest point in recorded history, a result of water diversion, the mega-drought and impacts from a changing climate. The shrinking lake will impact snowpack, exposed lake bed creates dust storms with toxins in them, and there are harms to wildlife, public health and the economy.

On Thursday, House Majority Leader Mike Schultz, R-Hooper, asked an appropriations committee for $6 million to purchase land near Salt Lake City International Airport for the lake.

"It creates a buffer, a development buffer, so that development can’t encroach further towards the Great Salt Lake," he told FOX 13 News.

Rep. Schultz said more important than the land was the water that came with it. With the state purchasing the land, it would be set aside for preservation and the water rights would go to the lake.

In that same meeting, Rep. Doug Owens, D-Millcreek, asked his legislative colleagues for $72,000 to expand air monitoring around the Great Salt Lake because of toxic dust. Rep. Owens, who co-chairs the legislature's newly-formed Great Salt Lake Caucus, told FOX 13 News he was not concerned in the overall picture that the lake wouldn't be helped.

"Individual bills? There are some that are going to be more important than others," he said.

Rep. Schultz said the legislature is dedicated to the lake.

"I know we’re committed to the Great Salt Lake. There’s a strategic approach we’re taking," he told FOX 13 News. "We’re working with all the stakeholders to make sure there’s investments needed to protect the Great Salt Lake. You know it’s been the Speaker’s top priority, he’s led out on this issue. We will do more than we did last year towards the Great Salt Lake."

Fox 13 Reporter
Ben Winslow is FOX 13's reporter on Capitol Hill covering a wide variety of topics including politics, polygamy, vice and courts. He has been in the news business in Utah for more than 20 years now, working in radio, newspaper, television and digital news. Winslow has received numerous honors for his reporting, including a national Edward R. Murrow award; the Religion Newswriters Association Local TV News Report of the Year; the Utah Broadcaster's Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. Readers of Salt Lake City Weekly and Q Salt Lake have named him their "Best TV news reporter" for many years now. He co-hosts "Utah Booze News: An Alcohol Policy Podcast," covering the state's often confusing and quirky liquor laws. Winslow is also known for his very active Twitter account keeping Utahns up-to-date on important news.

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