SALT LAKE CITY (CN) – The Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands approved 33,000 acres of development for mineral salts extraction from Great Salt Lake without proper environmental review, conservation groups claim in Salt Lake County Court. Great Salt Lake Minerals Corp.’s plans to build large solar evaporation ponds to recover and process salts will restrict recreational access, reduce lake levels and endanger colonies of American pelicans and other birds, conservationists say.
Friends of Great Salt Lake and more than a dozen other conservation groups claim the state’s approval violated the Utah Administrative Procedures Act.
Bear River Bay, a popular recreation spot and important habitat for birds, is slated to become an 8,000 acre solar pond, permanently damaging the lake, the groups say.
The development would bring the company’s leased operation to 76,000 acres, or 119 square miles, encompassing 13 percent of lake at low water levels and 7.4 percent at average levels, the suit states.
In a related lawsuit in the same court, Great Salt Lake Minerals sued the Utah Department of Natural Resources, seeking a declaration that it cannot refuse to grant mineral leases while considering whether to amend the lake’s management plan. The company says a management plan can be amended only if “unforeseen circumstances arise,” and “cannot be held hostage to a planning process” driven by conservation groups rather than proper leasing procedures.