In what is being considered by the land-speed-record racing community as a historic first, the Utah state legislature has approved a $5 million appropriation to help restore the Bonneville Salt Flats.
The so-called dry lake in northern Utah has been the site of time trials and speed-record runs for more than a century, but the racing surface, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has deteriorated in recent years.
“This marks the first public dollars appropriated to restore the depleted salt surface since the land-speed racing community began its quest more than 30 year ago,” Tom Burkland, vice chairman of the Save the Salt Foundation, said in a news release.
“This is a job well done,” he added. “Land speed racers the world over say, ‘Thank You Utah!’ “
But while the news release suggests it is time to “Pop the champagne!” and that the state funding becomes available July 1, it also notes that the money from Utah is contingent on commitments from other sources to contribute to the $45 million needed over the next 10 years to restore the site. According to the Save the Salt group, nearly all of that funding would come from the federal budget. The motorsports community also is expected to contribute.
“In the past few weeks, Utah legislators received upwards of 1,000 emails from the motorsports community which helped focus much needed attention on the critical funding request,” according to Save the Salt.
“Lawmakers authorized the Utah Department of Natural Resources to create a ‘Restore Bonneville’ program to increase the volume of salt being pumped onto the Bonneville Salt Flats by Intrepid Potash, Inc.
“Racing community representatives have worked with lawmakers, regulators and Intrepid Potash, Inc. to craft the 10-year project. Salt brine pumping levels will dramatically rise as a result of infrastructure upgrades. The racing venue should gradually expand from its current length of about 8 miles with the goal of reaching its original 13-mile length.
“Attention will now turn to the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to appropriate funds and make commitments so that Restore Bonneville becomes a reality,” the Save the Salt group said in its news release.
The BLM oversees the Salt Flats, which stretch for 60 miles and are divided by a railroad and highways. According to a brochure distributed by the Specialty Equipment Market Association, racing takes place on the north side and potash processing on the south side. However, in the 1960s the BLM issued leases allowing salt to be transferred to the south for extraction of potash.