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Utah Inland Port Authority approves the Spanish Fork port project

Looking south over Spanish Fork, Utah, as seen from the air, June 25, 2023.
Caroline Ballard
/
KUER
Looking south over Spanish Fork, Utah, as seen from the air, June 25, 2023.

The Utah Inland Port Authority Board unanimously voted in favor of building a mini port in Spanish Fork during its July 17 meeting.

The Verk Industrial Park will be around 2,200 acres on the west side of the city, according to plans for the project. Port authority staff and board members have touted the area as the perfect place because it’s by the Spanish Fork airport and has access to Interstate 15, U.S. Highway 6 and Union Pacific rail.

The board usually meets at the Utah State Capitol but held this meeting in the Spanish Fork City Council chambers. Chair Miles Hansen said they chose the location to underscore the importance of what they were voting on.

Executive Director Ben Hart said the port authority’s goal in this project is to help Spanish Fork help it reach its economic goals.

“As we work together, we hope that we can recruit the businesses here that the community wants. We hope that we can create a more sustainable transportation and logistics opportunities for shippers in the community. But more than anything else, and I believe this, this action, this collaboration that you're seeing today will be one of the most important economic decisions to have happened in Utah County in the last 50 years,” Hart said.

The Spanish Fork City Council and Mayor Mike Mendenhall were already on board. On May 2, the council passed a resolution that said the city wanted the port authority to “help fund the development of regional economic development opportunity.” On July 11, the council passed another resolution authorizing an interlocal agreement with the port authority after hearing public comments that included three people who opposed the project.

Dave Anderson, Spanish Fork’s Community & Economic Development Department director, said there is a need for this project.

“That's really where we fall short today. We don't have an adequate supply of industrial land.”

Critics have raised concerns about the necessity of the project, environmental concerns, increasing traffic and losing farmland. There are also concerns from the Timpanogos Nation. During a media panel after the vote, CEO of the Timpanogos Nation Mary Murdock Meyer said there are gravesites in the area that will become the Verk Industrial Park and she said she has ancestors buried there.

Spanish Fork is not alone in welcoming the Inland Port Authority. While it originally focused on building a 16,000-acre logistics center near the Salt Lake City airport, the port authority is now focusing on creating smaller projects statewide. In May, The Salt Lake Tribune reported that at least nine Utah communities had taken steps toward their own port projects.

During the July 17 meeting, board members also discussed a proposed project in Box Elder County. The board said it will consider approving it during its August meeting.

Martha is KUER’s education reporter.
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