State officials have narrowed down the specific parcel of land where Utah’s new state prison will be built. But some environmentalists say they need more information to feel comfortable with that decision.
The Prison Relocation Commission decided last fall to build the new prison somewhere inside a 4,000-acre plot of land just west of the Salt Lake International Airport. On Friday, state building managers ruled out a more eastern parcel on that property because it’s adjacent to an old landfill. There is some concern about contamination at the site.
Marilee Richins is interim deputy director of the Utah Department of Administrative Services.
“We feel very confident that we can build a facility that is environmentally responsible while continuing to be fiscally responsible and operationally adequate for what we need,” Richins says.
Lynn de Freitas is executive director of Friends of Great Salt Lake. Her organization was asked to help inform the prison relocation process. But she says the state has not made available reports showing the soil and hydrologic analysis of the east parcel. Without the data, de Freitas says she doesn’t know if the landfill is dangerous, and can’t support the decision to choose to build on a more remote, environmentally sensitive parcel.
“If you’re trying to think about reducing impacts overall to a critically sensitive environment, you could say there is a logic to explore fairly carefully and thoroughly, the parcel that’s already in a vicinity where there are impacts going on,” de Freitas says.
The prison is scheduled to be complete in 2020. Construction can’t begin until the soggy soil is prepped and filled. That’s expected to take at least a year.