SALT LAKE CITY — A critical report on the future of the Great Salt Lake has been delivered to Governor Spencer Cox and legislative leadership.

Now, the governor will have to decide on a course of action.

The report, prepared by newly appointed Great Salt Lake Commissioner Brian Steed, is not yet public. The commissioner gave FOX 13 News a sneak peek of what was in his report earlier this month.

But Gov. Cox will make his own recommendations to the Utah State Legislature by Dec. 31. At his monthly news conference, the governor said he supported a number of measures that Steed recommended, including a "healthy range" of lake levels. (The Utah State Legislature rejected a resolution setting a healthy lake level.)

"I can tell you I'm very optimistic... at the recommendations that came forward. I think there are hard decisions that we will have to make over time for sure depending on the hydrology of the watershed and the hydrology of the lake," the governor said Wednesday.

The Great Salt Lake shrunk to its lowest level in recorded history last year as a result of water diversion, drought and climate change. Thanks to a record-breaking winter, it rebounded and rose several feet. But the governor reiterated that it remains imperiled. The exposed lake bed contains toxins like arsenic that has alarmed state leaders who have spent more than $1 billion on water conservation measures and passed a series of bills in the legislature aimed at reversing the declines.

Asked about the dust and its impacts on Utah's air quality, Gov. Cox said it is something he is pushing for more action on.

"There’s going to be a need for more scientific work around that," he said. "More research to understand where the dust is coming from, how it moves, the toxicity of the dust, what can be done to mitigate that dust. Obviously, the best way to mitigate that dust? Have a fuller lake."

The governor said lawmakers will consider more bills on the Great Salt Lake in the upcoming legislative session that begins next month.

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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