SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District has granted authorization requested by Union Pacific Railroad to temporarily stabilize a culvert in the railroad causeway across Utah’s Great Salt Lake, while requiring ecological monitoring and mitigation.
The Corps has engaged with Union Pacific for almost three years regarding the railroad’s desire to close two 20-foot-wide culverts and construct a bridge in this portion of the causeway.
Union Pacific says the one remaining concrete culvert has deteriorated to a point that it is unsafe and the railroad requested emergency permitting from the Corps so they might immediately fill the culvert.
Regulators with the Corps issued today’s decision based on information Union Pacific submitted in late November. “This allows the railroad to temporarily fill-in the last culvert, but requires them to closely monitor salinity and other important water qualities leading up to construction of their long-term solution for the causeway,” said Jason Gipson, chief of the Corps’ Utah-Nevada regulatory branch.
“We are moving forward with processing a standard permit for the proposed permanent repairs on the causeway. A public notice describing the proposal will be issued next week,” said Gipson.
The Corps, and other concerned parties, continues to emphasize the need for Union Pacific to provide scientific data, including water flow modeling, to examine possible effects of mixing waters with greatly differing salinity levels from the northern and southern arms of the lake – waters largely separated by the earthen causeway for more than 50 years.
“The Corps recognizes this situation is a serious matter and is committed to continue working with Union Pacific while the standard permit process is ongoing,” said Gipson. “Our goal is to identify a balanced solution to the causeway issue while maintaining the beneficial uses of the Great Salt Lake.”
“Decisions affecting the future of Utah’s Great Salt Lake must be based on the best available science and we are gathering that input from a host of federal and state agencies, and have an opportunity to consult with several academic institutions in the area,” said Gipson.
The Great Salt Lake is one of seven unique aquatic ecosystems in the continental U.S. designated as having “hemispheric importance” under the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network. Reports indicate the lake contributes approximately $1.3 billion annually to Utah’s economy through industrial and recreational uses.
Beginning Dec. 13, the Corps will seek public input on a permit to allow Union Pacific to construct permanent repairs to the causeway. At that time, the public notice will be available at http://www.spk.usace.army.mil/Media/RegulatoryPublicNotices.aspx.
Information on points of contact and how to submit comments will also be contained within the notice. The comment period will be open for 30 days.