The Save The Salt Foundation made life-saving repairs to breaches in the Bonneville Salt Flats, the location of the Bonneville International Raceway motorsports venue in Toole County, Utah.
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As part of joint efforts to restore the Bonneville salt pans – including significant awareness and support from the racing community – two large breaks in the levee were repaired so that no brine was pumped onto Bonneville during the winter months inadvertently elapses in the Salduro loop instead of at the race venue.
“Save the Salt Foundation arranged and paid the contractor to complete the repairs thanks in large part to raising awareness in the racing community,” said Dan Ingber, SEMA Vice President, Government and Legal Affairs. “For context, runners crossed the levee decades ago so they could more quickly transit the Salduro loop from the west side of Bonneville to the east side. These new repairs close those breaches and ensure the preservation of the ever-important Bonneville International Raceway.
The Salduro Loop Seawall was created in 1917 to separate a large swath of private land from federal land where races and other recreational activities take place. The private land was available for potash mining until the construction of I-80 in 1972.
The larger Restore Bonneville initiative is a collaboration between PRI, SEMA and the Save the Salt Coalition – a collection of land speed racing companies, organizations, individuals and teams – and the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Utah Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and its Utah Geological Survey (UGS) division, and Intrepid Potash, Inc. The goal is to increase the amount of salt deposited on Bonneville during the winter pumping season.
The Bonneville Salt Flats in northwestern Utah are the densely packed salt remnants of an ancient lake bed formed over thousands of years. It’s a unique setting for movies and commercials, and also has rare physical qualities that make it the perfect location for land speed races. Since 1914, hundreds of land speed records have been set and broken in various automobile and motorcycle classes. Speed Week, Bonneville’s signature event, began in 1949 as dozens of runners and thousands of spectators descended on Bonneville in search of records.
Bonneville is also a crucial natural resource for potash used primarily in fertilizers. To obtain potash, the brine is collected in large solar evaporation ponds from which the potash is separated and processed. The remaining salt is stored and can then be pumped to Bonneville as brine.
Beginning in the 1960s, the BLM issued leases north of I-80, where motor sports racing and other recreational activities take place, allowing the collection of salt brine in open ditches for commercial processing of potash. The mine operator began pumping treated salt to Bonneville in 1997, but the Restore Bonneville program will help address salt losses that occurred before 1997 when the potash project was operated by previous companies. The race site was over 13 miles long in the 1960s, but is now 8 miles or less.
Last year, nearly $1 million in state and federal funds were released to restore the Bonneville Salt Flats, funding the installation of scientific equipment to monitor the success of the pumping program and a new well to help prepare the brine. PRI, SEMA and Save the Salt are seeking additional government funding in 2022 and 2023 to save Bonneville.