Control gates at Utah Lake will open as water reaches ‘full’ levels

SARATOGA SPRINGS, Utah (ABC4) — The water at Utah Lake is approaching “full” levels, according to the Department of Natural Resources, resulting in a need to open the control gates and release water downstream.

The water would be released into the Jordan River, which flows into the Great Salt Lake. State Engineer Teresa Wilhelmsen said officials are just waiting for water levels to stabilize before starting to slowly release the water.

“We’re not certain about the final quantity of water that might be added to the Great Salt Lake as a result of opening the gates because it will largely depend on precipitation, weather and other factors,” said Wilhelmsen. “But it’s important to note that the state engineer and the water users of Utah Lake are actively managing the lake in conformance with Utah law and the directives of the Utah Lake Compromise Agreement.”

Wilhelmsen said whenever Utah Lake reaches its “compromise level” – which is described as a lake elevation established by court order – the state engineer is required to regulate the control gates to prevent flooding both around Utah Lake and the Jordan River. That level was reached a little earlier this year thanks to last year’s record-breaking snowpack.

“The snowpack last year combined with the conservation efforts of Salt Lake Valley and Utah Valley residents means that our reservoirs are full,” said Director of the Utah Lake Water Users Association (ULWUA) Wade Tuft. “Utah Lake is approaching the compromise elevation because water users are storing water from last year while it continues to snow and rain in the watersheds feeding Utah Lake.”

The amount of water that could potentially reach the Great Salt Lake and the amount to be released from Utah Lake is yet to be determined. However, ULWUA estimated as much as 300 million gallons of water per day could be released while the gates are open.

Tuft said officials will be watching the weather forecasts and if precipitation keeps falling, they will be able to leave the gates open longer.

Great Salt Lake Commissioner Brian Steed said that Utah needs to maximize the amount of water that gets to the Great Salt Lake, as outlined in the newly released Great Salt Lake Strategic Plan.

“The fastest way to get water to the lake is from abundant precipitation,” said Steed. “However, conservation helps keep water in our reservoirs and stretch the water supply.”

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