Racing enthusiasts calling on Congress to save Bonneville Salt Flats
(KUTV) The Bonneville Salt Flats are known and appreciated by racing enthusiasts around the world, but lately the crusty top layer of earth has been less salt and more mud.
A group of racers and recreational stakeholders from Utah have created an alliance called, "Save the Salt". The organization is currently working to draft legislation to present Congress, requiring the Bureau of Land Management to do more to preserve the salt flats.
"It's the only place like this in the world that has this close of access," said Dennis Sullivan, chairman of the alliance and President of the Utah Salt Flats Racing Association. "Pretty soon there will not be a place like it here."
Sullivan is an avid racer and currently holds the world record in a T Street Roadster, at 143.8 miles per hour; A record set driving on the salt flats.
"You can go out 15, 16 miles and there's nothing out there. It's like going to the moon."
Sullivan and countless other racers have had to put their hobbies on hold the last few years, while the flats recover from an abundance of rain and a lack of salt.
Currently, the land is also used for mining potash. As part of the process, Sullivan said vast amounts of salt are removed from the surface and discarded in retention pools south of the interstate. Save the Salt has asked the BLM to require those mining companies to recycle that discarded salt back onto the surface of the flats on the north side of the freeway.
"There's always more to do and the BLM is taking the management of the BLM Salt Flats very seriously," said Kevin Oliver in the Salt Lake office of the Bureau of Land Management.
The process of pumping salt back onto the surface of the flats is something the BLM has required of mining companies since 1998, but racing enthusiasts say it's not enough to save the salt flats.
"It's not enough to make a difference," said Sullivan. "There's an excess of 200 million tons of wasted salt sitting on the south side of the freeway. We just want them to put it back."
The BLM admits the crust at the salt flats has been thin over the last few years, but Oliver isn't certain it's a long-term problem or that the surface salt content is in jeopardy.
"We've definitely been paying attention to their concerns, but we don't have any information to know whether there's a long term problem," he says.