Killjoy Mining Issues Ruining Fun at Bonneville Salt Flats?

The BlueRibbon Commission is trying to make sure that the Bonneville Salt Flats stay salty, and the group is leaning on the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to keep their end of the bargain to protect the iconic motor racing destination around for a few more decades.

Over the last few years, the Bonneville Salt Flats have decreased in size, strength and thickness because salt has been removed by an adjoining potash mining operation and not adequately replaced.

By the mid-1990s, the historic raceway had lost over 18 inches of salt crust. Originally 96,000 acres in size, the BSF has been reduced to about 30,000 acres and those lands are threatened unless the salt removed to extract potash is then returned to the BSF.

The potash operation is located on federal lands leased by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

“The Bonneville Salt Flats is a unique geological formation that is also central to the history of motorsports and the industries that support motorsports. Scores of world land speed records have been set on the densely-packed remnants of a huge prehistoric lake. The area is so flat, it is possible to see the curvature of the earth. The BSF has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has been designated an Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC),” said a spokesperson for the BRC stated.

The BlueRibbon Coalition is urging everyone to voice support for a reclamation plan that would protect the Bonneville Salt Flats from the effects of area mining activities.

In particular, the BRC is asking industry and enthusiasts to support the establishment of a permanent salt replacement program to counteract the effects of ongoing potash mining. The Salt Lake Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has released the Intrepid Potash Mine and Reclamation Plan Modification Environmental Assessment (EA) for a 60-day public comment period. The public comment period expires Nov. 7.

“The Bonneville Salt Flats (BSF) is a national treasure, a rare and unique resource.  For motorsports enthusiasts, it is the place where hundreds of records have been set in a variety of automotive and motorcycle classes,” BRC stated. “BLM must adopt ‘Alternative B’ from its proposed Environmental Assessment. Alternative B establishes a permanent salt replacement program to help protect the BSF.”

BLM has been responsible for managing and preserving the Bonneville Salt Flats since 1946 when the area’s salt depth was at least 5 feet. Mining activities in the area in the last six decades has caused an erosion of the salt flats —  the salt depth now is only a few inches thick, said BRC.

“Alternative B” calls for a minimum one-for-one replacement of salt that was removed for potash mining. “BLM must live up to its obligation to institute its own supplement program to replenish the salt,” BRC said. Alternative B is supported by the local mine operator.

Comments must be in writing (paper or electronic) and received by BLM by Nov. 7, 2011.

Email comments to:
Mail written comments to: Bureau of Land Management, Salt Lake Field Office, Attn: Cindy Ledbetter, 2370 South 2300 West, Salt Lake City, Utah 84119.
Fax comments to: 801-977-4397. Reference the “Intrepid Potash Mine Plan EA” when submitting comments. For further information, please contact Cindy Ledbetter, Environmental Coordinator, at 801-977-4300.


The proposed project area is located in Tooele County, Utah, near Wendover.  The EA describes the potential environmental impacts of the current mining operation and addresses future salt removal and replenishment.

The EA with maps is available for review on the BLM’s website at


Firesteel Creek Photography - Dave Sietsema


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