Environmentalists happier with Great Salt Lake Minerals expansion changes

Apr 24 2013 - 6:09am

Images

Sulfate of potash lines the bottom of evaporation ponds at Great Salt Lake Minerals Corp.’s facility outside of Ogden on Tuesday. The sulfate of potash is harvested by filling large ponds with water from Great Salt Lake and allowing it to evaporate out, leaving minerals behind. (BENJAMIN ZACK/Standard-Examiner)
Employees at Great Salt Lake Minerals Corp. harvest sulfate of potash along Great Salt Lake near Ogden on Tuesday. Sulfate of potash is used in fertilizer and is derived from the water of Great Salt Lake. On Tuesday, GSL Minerals submitted a revised plan to the Army Corps of Engineers for an expansion. (BENJAMIN ZACK/Standard-Examiner)
A truck waits to be filled with sulfate of potash in the Great Salt Lake Minerals Corporation's evaporation ponds along Great Salt Lake near Ogden on Tuesday, April 23, 2013.  On Tuesday, GSL Minerals submitted a plan to the Army Corps of Engineers for an expansion that includes revisions to its 2009 proposal. (BENJAMIN ZACK/Standard-Examiner)
Sulfate of potash lines the bottom of evaporation ponds at Great Salt Lake Minerals Corp.’s facility outside of Ogden on Tuesday. The sulfate of potash is harvested by filling large ponds with water from Great Salt Lake and allowing it to evaporate out, leaving minerals behind. (BENJAMIN ZACK/Standard-Examiner)
Employees at Great Salt Lake Minerals Corp. harvest sulfate of potash along Great Salt Lake near Ogden on Tuesday. Sulfate of potash is used in fertilizer and is derived from the water of Great Salt Lake. On Tuesday, GSL Minerals submitted a revised plan to the Army Corps of Engineers for an expansion. (BENJAMIN ZACK/Standard-Examiner)
A truck waits to be filled with sulfate of potash in the Great Salt Lake Minerals Corporation's evaporation ponds along Great Salt Lake near Ogden on Tuesday, April 23, 2013.  On Tuesday, GSL Minerals submitted a plan to the Army Corps of Engineers for an expansion that includes revisions to its 2009 proposal. (BENJAMIN ZACK/Standard-Examiner)

OGDEN -- Great Salt Lake Minerals Corp. submitted a revised permit application Tuesday to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to expand its solar evaporation ponds in a move it maintains will have less adverse environmental impact than a 2009 proposal.

GSL Minerals is the only U.S. producer of sulfate of potash, which is a specialty fertilizer used to grow fruits, vegetables and nuts.

Dave Hyams, a spokesman for GSL Minerals, said the company is seeking a permit to expand production of sulfate of potash from the current level of about 350,000 tons annually to about a million tons at the end of 30 years.

GSL Minerals has about 47,000 acres of solar evaporation ponds on Great Salt Lake. The sun evaporates brine in the ponds, leaving sulfate of potash and other minerals.

Initially, GSL Minerals submitted a proposal to the Army Corps of Engineers in 2009 to develop 91,000 acres of new solar evaporation ponds, including 8,000 acres in Bear River Bay, and 353,000 acre-feet of new brine withdrawals.

However, after discussions with several state and federal agencies, as well as Friends of Great Salt Lake and Great Salt Lake Audubon Society, GSL Minerals modified its proposal while maintaining its production goals, Hyams said.

"We believe we met all concerns (from environmental organizations)," he said.

Lynn de Freitas, executive director of Friends of Great Salt Lake, said GSL Minerals' revised permit application is a vast improvement over the 2009 proposal.

"They have done a good job narrowing the differences," she said Tuesday. "What we don't know is the mitigation for the impact that will come anyway."

De Freitas hopes to learn more about those impacts when the Army Corps of Engineers releases a draft environmental impact statement for the proposal.

GSL Minerals hopes to receive federal approval for the expansion in 2014, Hyams said.

The company's revised permit application will:

* Significantly reduce the acreage sought for new ponds.

* Eliminate all development in Bear River Bay.

* Eliminate any request for new consumptive water rights.

* Develop the project in incremental stages with review between stages.

* Delay development on the east side of the lake until the final phase, and only if certain environmental criteria are met.

The permit application also requests incremental development of up to 33,000 acres on the west side of Great Salt Lake and of 14,000 additional nonlake acres adjacent to the west side of the lake.

In addition, the application seeks about 3,500 acres for new ponds west and south of Promontory Point and 1,200 acres on the east side of the lake outside Bear River Bay.

Hyams said the expansion will add employees to GSL Mineral's 350-member workforce and will increase royalty payments to the state that totaled about $10 million last year.

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