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Budget For 'Gigantic' Inland Port Skimps On Details

Map highlighting northwest region of Salt Lake City.
Salt Lake County GIS
/
The boundaries for the Utah Inland Port, highlighted in green.

A draft spending plan for the Inland Port Authority board drew criticism for having few details, especially on how the massive transit hub might affect the environment.

During a public hearing Wednesday, the 11-member Inland Port board fielded comments about its $2 million budget proposal. Nine people testified - many of them to criticize a $300,000 line-item for “public engagement.” Several complained that the half-page spending plan said nothing about examining potential harm to local land, water and skies.

Wednesday’s public hearing was part of the port authority’s third meeting, and several board members reminded the audience that plans are just getting underway. But the public pushback was just the latest in a bumpy start to the controversial port authority, which has fumbled with allegations of lack of transparency and conflict of interest over its handling of a multi-million-dollar project over an area the size of a Utah city, 16,000 acres.

Chairman Derek Miller said environmental impacts will be considered in the future as part of the economic development plan. He also disagreed with criticisms about the community engagement spending, which he called “critical to a successful project.”

“We’re on step three or four now of a hundred-step process,” he said. “So, I know there are a lot of questions and many members of the public are eager to get to step 35 or 50 [or] 99, so we’ll take it one step at a time.”

Heather Dove, president of the Great Salt Lake Audubon Society, called the port idea “gigantic” and said the development will likely dirty the water and air, along with contributing to are light pollution and noise.

“There’s been no mention of mitigation for any of these things,” she told the board. “We believe the board should shift its priorities from selling the port idea to thoroughly vetting the port idea.”

 

Miller said the board would take the public comments into consideration before it takes a final vote on the budget at a future meeting.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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