Saving the Salt Flats not easy, gathered experts say

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TOOELE COUNTY, Utah -- The Bonneville Salt Flats is the setting for blockbuster films and quirky personal photos that play with perspective.

But the events that made the Salt Flats famous around the world may be over unless scientists figure out a way to remake the hard crust that has been disappearing for years.

The Bureau of Land Management convened a summit at the Utah Museum of Natural History, including scientists, politicians, racers and mining companies to talk about how to bring back some of the salty crust that makes the flats an ideal surface for vehicles to go fast.

For land speed enthusiasts like Dennis Sullivan, the disappearance of the crust steals the world’s greatest surface for setting records.

“This is the only place in the world like this,” said Sullivan, who serves as President of the Utah Salt Flats Racing Association, the organizing body for the annual Speed Week.

Speed Week was last held in 2013.

“We have some vehicles now that they feel are capable of 500 miles an hour but right now, but there's no place they can run because they do not have an adequate safe shut down area,” said Sullivan, talking about the necessary distance for a vehicle to stop.

Brenda Bowen, the Director of the Global Change and Sustainability Center at the University of Utah, said she would like to help restore the racing surface, but she and other geologists don’t know how.

“The salt's not going away, but the salt is changing as we might expect in this sort of ephemeral, dynamic environment,” Bowen said.