Speed fans, rejoice.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management approved a final Environmental Assessment this month that will require mining companies at the Bonneville Salt Flats to replace any salt they remove—both in quantity and quality.
While there is some debate in the geological community regarding the impact potash mining is having on the Salt Flats’ surface thickness, there is no question that this permanent salt-replenishment program can have nothing but a positive impact.
Intrepid Potash-Wendover—the firm that mines potash from the Bonneville Salt Flats—has already been exceeding its mandate, annually pumping about 1 million tons of salt back onto the flats without removing any salt from those same areas. This new Environmental Assessment will ensure that salt-replenishment efforts continue for many years to come.
This is welcome news for auto enthusiasts who for many years have expressed concerns that mining activity at the Salt Flats has adversely affected the integrity of the salt crust. The fear is that too much deterioration of the salt could jeopardize the racing surface where racers and car builders have been setting land speed records since 1914.
According to the Save the Salt Coalition—a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the Bonneville Salt Flats—the salt flats were 96,000 acres when mining activity began there in 1963. Today, they say the Salt Flats are about 30,000 acres.
A 2011 news story in The Wall Street Journal quotes a couple retired Bureau of Land Management geologists who dispute that mining has adversely impacted the salt crust surface, saying the crust thickness was the same in 2004—about two feet—as it was in 1988. Neither the mining, nor the pumping of salt back onto the flats seemed to affect the crust one way or the other, the geologists said.
Regardless, any and all efforts to preserve this unique and historical site should be celebrated. It is hallowed ground for those interested in driving faster than anyone has ever driven before—which includes practically everyone that isn’t my grandmother.
So, long live the Bonneville Salt Flats—the fastest place on Earth. (Yes, pilots. We’re talking only about vehicles on the ground.)
Be sure to read about NHRA Pro Stock driver Jason Line’s recent visit to the Salt Flats for 2012 Speed Week where he set a new A/Modified Production land speed record, averaging 235 miles-per-hour on the five-mile course in a Summit Racing- and Jesel-sponsored Ram pickup truck.
235 miles per freaking hour! In related news, we love the Salt Flats.