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Causeway On Great Salt Lake To Be Broken-Up Next Month

Utah State officials are giving Union Pacific Railroad the go-ahead to begin breaking up a 21-mile railroad causeway on the Great Salt Lake next month.

The railroad had planned to breach the causeway in October but postponed because officials worried the already low water levels on the southern half of the lake would be worsened once the breach allows water to flow into the northern half again. They asked for a delay to study the effect on the lake's habitat.

Since 1959, the causeway has essentially created two lakes: the saltier, purple-hued north and the green-blue south which receives nearly all of the lake’s freshwater flows from the Bear, Weber and Jordan rivers.

Utah's Department of Natural Resources announced Monday that at this point in the year, the breach won't have much of an effect on brine shrimp and migratory birds in the lake.

Breaching the causeway will cause a water and salinity exchange, making the south arm lower and saltier. Brine shrimp are most productive at 12 to 17 percent salinity, and the south arm’s salt level is currently at 16 percent.

The breach will also cause water levels on the southern part of the lake to drop about 1 foot, which could bring it to a new historic low.