Bonneville Salt Flats gets federal help, as long as private sector steps up

A deluge of emails from salt flat racers, motorsports organizations, and others who love going fast has prompted the Utah legislature to earmark $5 million to help restore the Bonneville Salt Flats. The allocation, announced in Utah state Senate Bill 2, is contingent upon an additional $45 million for the project from private sources and the federal government, or “non-state funds”.

Thrill seekers have been going for ultimate speed out on the salt ever since Ab Jenkins started running there and promoting the course in northwestern Utah in the mid 1930s. The Bonneville Salt Flats are on the National Register of Historic Places. Bonneville Raceway hosts several events each year, the biggest of them being Bonneville Speedweek. The event draws hundreds of racers who compete in a slew of categories, from vintage and classic racers to electric vehicles and even 400-mph streamliners.

Over the years, environmental factors as well as mining for potash and other minerals have led to a shortening of the former 13-mile racing course, which stretches across an environmentally sensitive ancient lake bed.

Speed Week 2018 Ed Umland
Brandan Gillogly

Save The Salt, a non-profit comprised of automotive and motorsports organizations and companies, has campaigned alongside the Utah Alliance to restore the flats. Supporters inundated state lawmakers with more than 1,000 emails and letters, a campaign that led the legislature to authorize the state Department of Natural Resources to create a “Restore Bonneville” program. Legislators reportedly told Larry Volk, a salt flat supporter who works security in the state capitol, that they’d support the restoration project if supporters would stop flooding them with emails.

Part of the 10-year program includes improvements in infrastructure that will allow Intrepid to significantly increase the amount of salt they are pumping back into the flats. It is hoped that the process will slowly expand the racing course back to its original 13-mile length.

Save The Salt will now focus its efforts on raising money from donors and lobbying Congress and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to help finance the project.

Motorcycle at Bonneville Salt Flats Speed Week
Brandan Gillogly
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