Save the Salt Foundation Repairs Breaches at Bonneville Salt Flats Motorsports Venue - Engine Builder Magazine
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Save the Salt Foundation Repairs Breaches at Bonneville Salt Flats Motorsports Venue

The Save The Salt Foundation has made repairs to breaches at the Bonneville Salt Flats, the location of the Bonneville International Raceway.

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The Save The Salt Foundation has made vital repairs to breaches at 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 Flats—including significant outreach and support from the racing community—two large breaches to the dike were repaired so that no salt brine pumped onto Bonneville during the winter months will inadvertently flow into the Salduro Loop instead of onto the racing venue.

“Save the Salt Foundation arranged for and paid the contractor to make the repairs thanks largely to the racing community’s outreach,” said Dan Ingber, SEMA Vice President, Government and Legal Affairs. “For background, the racers breached the dike decades ago so they could more quickly transit through the Salduro Loop from the western side of Bonneville to the eastern side. These new repairs close those breaches and ensure the preservation of the ever-important Bonneville International Raceway.”  

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The Salduro Loop dike was created in 1917 to separate a large swath of private land from the federal lands where racing and other recreational activities occur. The private land was available for potash mining until I-80 was constructed in 1972. 

The larger Restore Bonneville initiative is a collaboration by PRI, SEMA, and the Save the Salt Coalition—a collection of companies, organizations, individuals, and land speed racing teams—and the U.S. 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 onto Bonneville during the winter pumping season.

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The Bonneville Salt Flats in northwestern Utah is the densely packed salt remnants of an ancient lakebed formed over thousands of years. It is a unique stage set for movies and commercials, and also possesses rare physical qualities that make it the perfect venue for land speed racing. Since 1914, hundreds of land speed records have been set and broken in a variety of automotive and motorcycle classes. Speed Week, the marquee event at Bonneville, began in 1949 as scores of racers and thousands of spectators descend on Bonneville in the quest for records.

Bonneville is also a crucial natural resource for potash used primarily in fertilizers. To obtain potash, salt brine is collected in large solar evaporation ponds from which potash is separated out and processed. The remaining salt is stored and may then be pumped on Bonneville as salt brine.

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Beginning in the 1960s, the BLM issued leases to the north of I-80, where motorsports racing and other recreational activities take place, allowing salt brine to be collected in open ditches for commercial potash processing. The mine operator began pumping the processed salt back onto 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 racing venue was over 13 miles in length in the 1960s but is now eight 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 salt brine. PRI, SEMA, and Save the Salt are pursuing additional government funding in 2022 and 2023 to save Bonneville.

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