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The Future of Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats

Words: Ellen Richardson

Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats have been home to some of the most impressive speeds ever witnessed for more than a century, but the salt that has stretched for miles and miles for all these years is now at risk.

According to officials from the Utah Salt Flats Racing Association, the top layer of salt, once four feet thick, is down to one inch in most places. Caused in part by mining companies which have been given access to separate out the salt from the potash the Bureau of Land Management acknowledges a seven percent decrease of the crust package over the last decade and a half.

The racing association said that they want $50 million dollars to replenish much of the lost salt.

“I don’t think that the general public realizes that this racing treasure is being taken away,” said Dennis Sullivan, president of the Utah Salt Flats Racing Association. “We blame the people that gave the leases and we think they were so poorly done that it took almost all the salt away.”

Scientist Brenda Bowen states that it is a combination of factors, not mining alone, that has led to less salt on this famous track. She recommends giving the track some rest.

"I would say leave it alone for a few years,” said Bowen. “Don’t come out here. Don’t drive on it when it’s wet; give it a minute and let’s see where it gets to. I mean, it’s not a racetrack in a warehouse. It’s not an indoor environment. It’s nature and it needs to replenish.”

Of course, this could be a problem if we all want history to continue to be made at the coolest land speed racing track in existence.