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Water released from Utah Lake to prevent flooding for first time since 2011

By Carlene Coombs - | Feb 9, 2024

Courtesy Matthew Morgan, Division of Oil, Gas and Mining

Water is released into the Jordan River from the Utah Lake on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024.

Utah Lake has reached water levels requiring the release of water from the lake into the Jordan River to prevent flooding of property on the shoreline.

State engineer Teresa Wilhelmsen with the Division of Water Rights said floodgates were opened Thursday for the first time since 2011.

According to Wilhelmsen, opening the gates is required when the freshwater lake reaches a “compromise level” that was established through a court order in the 1980s. This designated compromise level is to prevent any flooding of landowners on the shoreline of the lake, she added.

According to the Utah Lake Authority, the lake is about 98% full. The lake is considered at its compromise level when it reaches about 4,489 feet above sea level. The lake reached its highest level in 1984 of about 5 feet above the compromise level.

Last year’s heavy snowfall and the precipitation Utah is seeing right now factor into why the lake’s water levels are increasing, Wilhelmsen said, along with water users taking more conservation measures.

“Multiple factors would go into why this is happening,” she said.

Right now, they don’t know exactly how much water will be released, Wilhelmsen said, but they will get a better picture as the release continues.

She noted that across the system, other reservoirs like Deer Creek and Jordanelle also are reaching capacity. Deer Creek is currently 95% full, according to the Central Utah Water Conservancy District, and Wilhelmsen said the same amount of water coming into that reservoir is being released.

“I think over the next couple of months, depending on the weather patterns, what we see and also potential releases from Jordanelle and continued releases through Deer Creek, it’ll just really determine what may need to happen at Utah Lake,” she said.

When the water is released into the Jordan River, it likely will proceed into the Great Salt Lake, she said, and hopefully may help the lake as it has been struggling with low water levels for some time. The Great Salt Lake’s current level is at 4,193 feet, lower than the annual average of 4,196 feet, according to the Division of Wildlife Resources.

This legislative session, lawmakers are floating the possibility of funding a study to research how Utah Lake’s water can help improve water levels for the Great Salt Lake, with the idea of a study receiving support from former Utah Gov. Gary Herbert. The two lakes are connected via the Jordan River.

State Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, told Utah News Dispatch he plans to attempt legislation related to the idea and has opened a bill file titled “Utah Lake Revisions,” but the bill language has yet to be made public.

Wilhelmsen said as Utah Lake’s water is released into the Jordan River, they’ll also be ensuring that proper measures are taken along the river to prevent any flooding there from the increased water.

“We’ll see how the spring runoff unfolds and what that means for the water systems as a whole,” she said.


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