The Threatened Bear River


The Bear River is the single largest source of water feeding the Great Salt Lake, providing 60-70 % of the lake’s surface water each year. The Bear River enters the Great Salt Lake at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

This Bear River is being targeted by engineering firms, lobbyists and government water agencies who seek $2.5 billion in taxpayer funding to build 3 dams and divert the river upstream of the Great Salt Lake. The proposed diversion is massive in scale and would divert roughly 20% of the river’s annual flow to provide additional lawn water for the Wasatch Front.

The Bear River Water Grab would create a cascade of tragic impacts upon all Utahns and the Great Salt Lake. The Bear River Water Grab will:

  • Lower the Great Salt Lake several feet in elevation, thereby drying up tens of thousands of acres of shoreline wetlands.
  • Diminish habitat for millions of birds across hundreds of species, some of which gather in larger numbers at the Lake than anywhere else on the planet.
  • Expose lake bed dust sediments that will exacerbate air quality problems along the Wasatch Front, similar to problems in Owens Valley, California.
  • Diminish hunting opportunities for waterfowl hunters who support a vibrant regional economy.
  • Reduce the use and viability of recreational sailing on the Great Salt Lake.
  • Impact the brine shrimping industry which has been a longstanding and important diversification of Northern Utah’s economy.
  • Impact the mineral industry around the Lake which employs a substantial number of Utahns.


Learn about the alternatives to the Bear River Water Grab here.