LAYTON, Utah — The Weber Basin Water Conservancy District has begun sending emergency releases of water into the Great Salt Lake.

It's a move designed to help prop up the levels of the rapidly declining lake under a deal some local water districts negotiated with House Speaker Brad Wilson.

"Protecting and preserving the Great Salt Lake is no small task and will require the efforts of all Utahns – individuals, businesses, and organizations. I appreciate the water districts for recognizing their responsibility and for doing their part to help solve this perennial issue," Speaker Wilson, R-Kaysville, said in a statement to FOX 13 News.

Scott Paxman, the general manager of the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District, said they initially agreed to release 17,000 acre feet into the Great Salt Lake instead of diverting it to Willard Reservoir.

"We think we can do better than what we said we were going to do," he said Thursday, adding that they now plan to send roughly 25,000 acre feet into the lake, thanks to recent snowstorms.

"Three hundred twenty five thousand gallons for every acre foot," Paxman said. "So it adds up."

The Central Utah Water Conservancy District was also sending more water into the system that feeds into the Great Salt Lake, a spokesperson for the agency confirmed.

The House Speaker announced the agreement at his annual Great Salt Lake summit in October, getting the districts to send 30,000 acre feet into the lake in an effort to stabilize it. At the time, Speaker Wilson called it "a start."

Environmentalists have warned the Great Salt Lake is already seeing ecosystem collapse after dropping to the lowest point in the lake's recorded history. It is a result of water diversion, drought and a changing climate.

Utah's political leaders have reacted with alarm, spending millions to try to reverse the declines and enacting tougher water conservation measures across the state. The Utah State Legislature is expected to consider more water conservation measures and appropriate more money to help the lake in the next few months.

Utah's Department of Natural Resources told FOX 13 News it was looking at other measures like paying farmers not to grow crops next year to help 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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