SALT LAKE CITY — The state's Great Salt Lake Commissioner plans to ask local water districts to release some water stored up in reservoirs to send downstream into the lake.

Dr. Brian Steed said the reservoirs are fuller thanks to last year's winter.

"This year, we look like we’re going to have too much water in our reservoirs which means they will spill in meaningful ways," he told FOX 13 News on Monday.

With reservoirs already full, there will be more water to go down to the lake when snowpack melts in a few months. But local water districts, which control the reservoirs, will be the ones to pull that lever.

Dr. Steed briefed members of the Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee on Monday about plans to help save the lake. He is supporting efforts to also lease water from agriculture producers to send downstream. Dust mitigation from the Great Salt Lake's decline could cost $1.5 billion upfront and $15 million a year in maintenance, he told lawmakers.

But one lawmaker brought up the idea of "water augmentation," importing water.

"In the short term, if we harden our system through conservation we will be short-sighted completely because when we do hit drought, a really nasty drought, we don't have anywhere to pull from," Sen. Scott Sandall, R-Tremonton, said. "Water augmentation, in the long term is going to be extremely important. In fact, to me it's going to be essential."

Sen. Sandall said they all want the Great Salt Lake to be healthy, but he added it may take thinking outside the state. Dr. Steed told the committee they are advocating for conservation because it's the most certain and guaranteed method to getting water into the Great Salt Lake. Long term? Augmentation could be considered, but it would be years down the road.

"We definitely can do conservation right now and save a lot of water," he said.

Over the weekend, more than 1,200 people rallied at the Utah State Capitol to demand more action to save the Great Salt Lake. Many of the speakers at Saturday's demonstration expressed frustration at Utah political leaders for not taking more concrete steps to ensure water gets to the lake itself.

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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