Utah Gov. Spencer Cox advocated for and applauded Utah legislators who took helicopter tours over the shrinking Great Salt Lake in February to see the drought-damaged and diminished state of the state capital's namesake.
Cox signed 67 legislative bills into law on Monday, including a batch meant to impact the future of the Great Salt Lake, bringing the total number of signed bills from the 2022 session of the Utah Legislature to 121.
HB410 aims to save the lake with the Great Salt Lake Watershed Enhancement program, which will oversee a $40 million trust overseen by a conservation organization. This bill, sponsored by House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, is being called the most comprehensive bill for the lake to date. The focus of the funds will be to retain and enhance water flows to the lake; improve water quality and quantity in the watershed; conserve and restore upstream habitats; and integrate water quality and management plans.
HB429 is aimed at developing an overall water budget in an effort to improve water management and watershed of the Great Salt Lake. The Great Salt Lake Amendments, sponsored by Rep. Kelly Miles, spur an assessment of the lake with $5 million in initial funding.
HB157, sponsored by Rep. Timothy Hawkes, R-Centerville, will keep surplus money earned from revenues the state earns as royalties from industries operating on state sovereign lands, like the Great Salt Lake, in an account that will fund them. Prior to the bill being passed, surplus funds could be used to fund other projects; HB157 will not allow funds to be spent elsewhere.
Among other bills Cox signed Monday:
- HB242 will require secondary water, which is often referred to as irrigation water, to be metered. The bill says that there are 221,000 unmetered secondary water connections in Utah, which it says leads to overwatering because of a traditional flat rate for this type of water. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Val Petersen, R-Orem, aims to reduce water waste.
- SB216 makes modifications to the driver's license exam by allowing those with limited English proficiency to take the exam in "certain other languages." The languages offered are Spanish, Chinese, German and Navajo, the five top languages other than English in the state. Senate Minority Whip Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, who sponsored the bill, said "We've seen a limitation in people being able to pass the test if English is their second language," which has made it hard for many in the state to be able to drive to work.
- HB88 will use funds from the sales of a license plate to advance the Utah State Parks Dark Sky Initiative.