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No mining in Salt Lake County canyons after council weighs environmental impacts

A woman in a red jacket stands at a podium. A sign in the background says "Stop! The gravel pit."
Screengrab from livestream via Salt Lake County Council.
Cheri Jackson, a member of the Millcreek City Council, spoke out against the proposed quarry due to potential impacts to air quality.

The Salt Lake County Council voted Tuesday to ban mining in Wasatch canyons and foothills. The council amended an ordinance in response to a proposed limestone quarry in Parleys Canyon, which cuts through the Wasatch Mountains and connects Salt Lake and Summit Counties.

That project has seen fierce opposition from groups that worry about negative impacts to air quality, water, wildlife habitat and other environmental factors.

The quarry would be owned by a company called Tree Farm LLC, and Granite Construction would operate it. The project’s website claims the mine and its materials are “necessary to support affordability, quality, and sustainability” as development tries to keep up with Utah’s growing population.

The company says Parleys Canyon is a good location for the mine because it’s removed from densely populated areas. It’s also close to the interstate and nearby construction, which they say will lead to fewer truck emissions because they don’t have to travel far.

An initial proposal would have impacted more than 600 acres of land. A spokesperson for the companies behind the project said they withdrew the application for the large mine and put forth a plan for one that's about 20 acres.

During the meeting, more than a dozen people came forward to share their concerns about the potential environmental impacts of the proposal.

“We are always concerned about air quality, and this is an easy way to help stop further problems and pollutants,” said Cheri Jackson, a member of the Millcreek City Council. “Not only Millcreek residents, but all the residents of Salt Lake Valley deserve to have clean air, and stopping mining in Parleys Canyon would go a long way towards helping that.”

County Council Member Richard Snelgrove said he received nearly 250 emails about the proposed mine from constituents. He said none of them supported it.

“To reflect the will of the people, I believe we must amend this ordinance to avoid irreparable harm,” Snelgrove said. “Harm that would negatively affect the quality of life for the people of Salt Lake County and in Utah, not only quality of life now, but for generations to come.”

Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson also showed her support for the ban.

“Active measures are necessary to protect our canyon environment and preserve recreation opportunities,” Wilson said in a statement. “Today, Salt Lake County took an active measure to prohibit future mining in the Wasatch range.”

In a statement, a spokesperson for the companies behind the proposal said they believe the county’s actions go against state law, and they’re considering their next steps.

“This process has sadly shed a light on another serious issue: the attempt by privileged individuals in our state to bend a legal process to their will, leaving lawful businesses without recourse,” the statement said.

A spokesperson for Salt Lake County said they were confident in the legality of the council’s decision.

Produced with assistance from the Public Media Journalists Association Editor Corps funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.

Emily Means is a government and politics reporter at KUER.
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