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Politics & Government

Newly sworn-in Utah Inland Port Authority board takes on priorities, sustainability

Utah Inland Port Authority, first meeting, May 11, 2022
Ivana Martinez
/
KUER
Newly sworn-in board members of the Utah Inland Port Authority meet to talk about priorities for the Inland Port Wednesday afternoon, May 11, 2022.

The Utah Inland Port Authority Board oversees the proposed logistics center near the Salt Lake City airport. During the legislative session this year, a bill stripped Salt Lake City of its majority representation, replacing the former 11 members with five voting appointees and one non-voting member.

Those replacement members include newly elected chair Miles Hansen, vice-chair Dan Hemmert, Theresa Foxley, Rep. Mike Schultz, R-Hooper, Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton and non-voting Salt Lake City Council Member Victoria Petro- Eschler. They met for the first time Wednesday.

Jack Hedge, executive director of the authority, announced some of their priorities for the year which included addressing supply chain problems, environmental issues and enhancing the rail movements into the port.

He emphasized that they have to do these things in smarter, sustainable ways that reduce air and noise pollution.

“We need to be able to enhance rail viability and rail movements into and out of the inland port area,” he said. “That not only makes us a more attractive place for manufacturing going into the future, but the goods that come in here today, that come into our economy today and that we ship out of here today, can get to and from the market in a much more efficient and sustainable way.”

During the meeting, District 1 Councilwoman Petro-Eschler said this project is the biggest double-edged sword impacting her community. While there are a lot of potential opportunities for the economy and workforce, she said there are other factors to consider.

Environmental groups have raised concerns over the impacts of any port-related projects. The most commonly cited issue is air quality and pollution.

“This is not just an economic strategy to me,” Petro-Eschler said. “...It's not abstract for me. You can see from the place where my kids play alongside [the] kids who are refugees from Somalia and refugees from Bosnia. You can see the Inland Port Authority property. Whatever happens there, impacts my children directly. This is a very concrete thing for me.”

During the meeting, Steven suggested they conduct a legislative audit to better understand their current contracts. Many of the new members agreed.

Several members of the public also told board members to consider the environmental impacts and questioned how they would consider the port’s role in the water crisis.

Deeda Seed, public lands senior campaigner for Stop the Polluting Port Coalition asked them to think of the role of the distribution hub as they continue their work.

“We need to understand the defensible business case for this effort,” she said. “How is the Utah Inland Port Authority adding value above and beyond what would normally be generated by the private sector in conjunction with existing municipal authorities in Utah?

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