The state is proposing a 400 percent to 600 percent increase in the royalties companies pay to harvest salt from the Great Salt Lake, the first such proposal in 41 years.
The Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands has proposed raising the royalty rate from about 10 cents a ton to 40 to 60 cents a ton.The rate has not changed since 1955, said Arthur DuFault, sovereign lands director at the division.
DuFault said the state wants to use the money to make improvements to the Great Salt Lake. DuFault and other officials have been talking with leaders in Weber, Davis, Box Elder, Salt Lake and Tooele counties, asking them for a "wish list" of lake improvement projects that could be started with salt royalty revenues.
Ken Warnick, vice president of administration for Great Salt Lake Minerals Corp. of Ogden, said he agrees the state is entitled to boost its royalty.
But he contends that any changes should be phased in and that the state should make sure it does not hurt the competitiveness of Utah salt companies.
"They've got to be careful they don't create a royalty that might make the lake producers non-competitive with other producers around the country," Warnick said.
"If it's 50 cents or more, that seems pretty steep," he said. "I'd like to see us all pay the same, and then from there graduate it and tie it to an escalation in the cost of salt. I think we could all tolerate 40 cents a ton, or in that range."
Warnick said that at present, his company pays a percent of its revenue that works out to about 20 cents a ton, while others pay 10 cents a ton, Warnick said.