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State Expedites Permit for Causeway Construction

Wayne Wurtsbaugh, Utah State University
Water in the north arm of the Great Salt Lake (left) is much saltier and higher in elevation than in the south arm (right).

  The Union Pacific Railroad says a collapsing culvert beneath its causeway across the Great Salt Lake has created an emergency and it needs to be fixed as soon as possible.  But it can’t start the work without permission from the state of Utah. 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has already issued a permit allowing the Union Pacific Railroad to close the last open culvert under the causeway.  But the state of Utah must also issue a permit.  Walt Baker, the director of the Utah Division of Water Quality, says his agency is moving quickly because of the safety concerns and is asking for public feedback now on the permit.

Baker tells KUER, “We’ll open that up for two days of public comment, Friday and Monday, two working days, closing that or intending to issue the permit then at the close of business on Monday.  The public comment period will continue forward, however, for 30 days, and we reserve the right in our permit to reopen that permit if there are substantive comments that come in from the public relative to this closure.”

Closing the culvert reduces what little flow remains between the north and south arms of the lake.  The north arm is much saltier and lower in elevation than the south.

Union Pacific has proposed building a 180-foot bridge on the causeway to allow improved water flow.  The Corps of Engineers and the Division of Water Quality will both have to issue additional permits to allow that project to move ahead.

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