Without nearly $500,000 in federal assistance grants, Salem Lake (also known as Salem Pond) could turn into Salem Puddle, or worse, a safety hazard, according to town officials.

The Salem Town Council has requested federal funding and possible assistance from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to help dredge and clean up the pond, which has shallowed from a 21-foot depth to a current 7 feet in just over a century, Mayor Randy Brailsford said.The grant money would pay for dredging the lake's surface and groundwater drainage, as well as some landscaping such as bike paths and a small beach for swimming, Brailsford said.

Silt and sediment buildup caused the lake level to drop and shallow water has led to a variety of potential health and safety problems, he said.

He said the lake needs to be cleaned because it's unsafe for children and others who could get tangled in the different species of macrophytes and phytoplankton (moss and algae).

Also, mosquito breeding and plant growth have cut down on the lake's water flow and garbage that has blown onto the lake could turn it into a potential health hazard, Brailsford said.

"The lake and its environs should be the single greatest asset to the community, but because of its perceived water quality problems, the lake is becoming a liability to the city.

"If the city is to continue to grow and prosper, and to provide for the recreational needs of its residents, the lake must be restored."

According to Brailsford, 80 percent of the land around the lake has been made into a city park and playground "used by 100 people a day during the summer months."

Additionally, the lake is used for water storage in irrigation use, as a wetlands for water purification and a waterfowl habitat, he said.

The lake's water content has been analyzed by the Utah Bureau of Water Pollution Control, and provides "ample opportunity for plant and wildlife growth," he said.

"If the water quality of Salem Lake is improved, the potential for the lake to stimulate the local economy is great. Improved water quality will result in enhanced recreation."

Brailsford said the city has investigated and invested in possible solutions, including $58,000 in work last year. Among the improvements, the city rented a moss mower to cut down the lake's moss and algae growth.But the measures have "been temporary and we're looking for something permanent."

Though the Utah National Guard at one time attempted to dredge the lake and its bottom and failed due to equipment problems, the town now has the ability to drain the lake to facilitate the dredging, Brailsford said.

"This is the time to act. We've done everything we can do and now we need some help."