3 important Northern Utah environment stories of 2017

Mike Meehan walks through the debris flow on the Spring Creek Road Landslide in Riverdale on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017. Meehan has a horse pasture and several buildings at the base of the landslide that are now buried in mud. While he is disappointed with the damage caused, Meehan and his wife say they are more concerned about what will happen in the spring when the rain and melting snow wash through the area.

When it comes to Earth, few things happen quickly. The landslide that happened in the Washington Terrace/Riverdale area is something of an exception and it was the top story about our environment of the year.

While it likely took several variables working together over time, the movement of mud and dirt down a ravine happened very quickly, especially by Utah standards.

Three homes were evacuated and it’s still unclear if the residents will be able to move back in any time soon. The area where the landslide happened is still being closely monitored.

Great Salt Lake dust model spells trouble for Utah if more water is diverted

A University of Utah study published in May predicts how much dust is coming from sources like the Great Salt Lake and how those particles could affect air quality.

Among other findings, the model studies how much PM 2.5 would be in the air if the lake dropped another 8.5 inches. The model suggested an increase in particulate pollution levels by around 275 percent in Brigham City if the Bear River were tapped to divert water to new developments.


Speaking of water, Standard-Examiner reporter Leia Larsen did a five-part series in 2017 examining the West’s saline lake system. In particular, what residents of the Wasatch Front can learn from those who’ve either saved or used up other salty lakes — ones that are smaller but not dissimilar to the Great Salt Lake.

The Great Salt Lake accounts for hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in the Utah economy, as well as playing a major role in our environment (see above study about exposed lake bed, dust and air quality).

Here’s a quick summary of the saline lake series:

Mono Lake, California: Massive diversions from this California lake can teach Utah about using water diversions responsibly. If not, this story offers insight into the cost of litigation and mitigation.

Lake Abert, Oregon: This lake dried up in 2014 and has since regained a little bit of water. It offers insight into the brine shrimp industry, which was a tiny operation in Oregon but accounts for millions of dollars here in Utah.

Lahontan Wetlands, Nevada: What role should the government play in saving precious environmental resources? The people of the Lahontan Valley had to find out the hard way.

Lake Owens, California: This now-dry lake bed is a warning for how bad air quality could get if the Great Salt Lake disappears.

See the full project.

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