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Politics & Government

Utah Legislature’s Latest Inland Port Bill Creates ‘Bank’ To Fund Infrastructure Projects

A photo of a inland port sign.
Brian Albers
/
KUER
A Utah Senate committee passed a bill Monday to distribute funds for the state’s inland port project. The main port will be located on the northwest side of Salt Lake County, but the port authority plans to create “satellite ports” throughout the state.

For the past three years, the Utah Legislature has made tweaks to the state’s inland port project.

This year’s bill, which passed a Senate committee Monday morning, creates a "bank" to distribute $75 million in loans for inland port infrastructure throughout the state. Utah’s Point of the Mountain and Military Installation Development Authorities could also use the money for their projects.

Jack Hedge, executive director of the Utah Inland Port Authority, said it will help them expand outside of the Wasatch Front.

“Our goal with the use of this infrastructure bank is to use that to stimulate project development, project growth in our rural communities,” Hedge said. “That really is our focus.”

The bill would also get rid of a rule that prohibits the port’s board members from owning land within five miles of the project’s boundaries. That was originally implemented as a way to curb conflicts of interest.

Some people who opposed the bill criticized lawmakers for introducing it in the last week of the session — much like the first bill that created the port authority in 2018.

“The consequence of this is that once again, on a matter related to the proposed inland port and satellite ports, the taxpaying public is being shut out of the conversation,” said Deeda Seed, an organizer with the Stop the Polluting Port Coalition. The group opposes the project because of its potential environmental impacts.

Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, sponsored the bill and said he’s been working on it throughout the session. Stevenson said it was late because of his own schedule.

“There’s no attempt to do this in a back room,” Stevenson said. “It’s out in daylight now, and I’m sure there will be plenty of opportunity to fix it in the future if we do get it wrong. If it needs to be tweaked, we have the capability of doing that.”

The bill passed the committee on a 6-1 vote. It now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

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