WENDOVER, Utah (ABC 4 News) - For the first time members of the racing community, the Bureau of Land Management, the Department of Natural Resources and representatives of the potash mining industry came together Monday to come up with a plan to save the Bonneville Salt Flats.
Good 4 Utah's Kimberly Nelson got a private tour of the Bonneville Salt Flats from a man that knows a little something about it's racing history. Rick Vesco has been racing at Bonneville since 1962; his father started racing in 1933
"This was just literally 60 miles that way solid salt and went from Wendover to Knolls," said Vesco.
But not anymore, this is what the middle of the track looks like now. "You can flatten it down, but you can't get traction on that," said Vesco. "See how wet it is?"
Weather plays a role in the wet salt flats for sure, but many question how much of an influence the mining operations at Intrepid Potash has on the conditions of the racing surface. "Across the highway there is over 100 square miles of salt, five maybe ten feet deep in some of the holding ponds," explained Vesco.
In 1997 a reclamation effort called the salt laydown project was created to help move the salt from the mining facilities back to the salt flats. Brent Bingham was the engineer of the project. "We definitely have moved millions of tons of salt out here over the many years its been operating," said Bingham.
That worked well for a while, but you can't really control mother nature and so the rain and the winds blew away the salt and brought in other sediments. Vesco said, "The salt has migrated in every direction than where we need it and so now we're trying to figure out how to isolate it, dike it, retain it, right on the main straight away."
Some of those proposed solutions were shared at Monday's joint meeting between racers, the mining company, BLM and other interested parties. Those in attendance say they've never seen this kind of cooperation, raising their hopes that one day the Bonneville Salt Flats will be restored.
Vesco said, "Luckily for the racers and for America we think we can bring this back to the glory days of a 13 mile racetrack."
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