New Port Board, same problems

Construction continues for the Port despite no Human Health Risk Assessment being done.

Last legislative session, the Utah legislature voted to remove Salt Lake City’s representation from the Board of the Utah Inland Port Authority. They had their first meeting with the new board which, similar to the previous board, failed to address the public’s concerns over the Port. 

“One thing that didn’t change Wednesday is the pushback from groups that still oppose the port, who argue that there are many unanswered questions about the port’s impact on the environment and on the communities by the port. One by one, they spoke out about the issues they still have about poor air quality and, especially now, water availability, as well as other impacts the port creates” KUER reported.

The new board has proposed an audit and revision of contracts, which gives some hope for improved transparency. However, the meeting was not posted on their website, did not offer the option to livestream, and did not have time for all public comments, which is disappointing for those who wanted to be involved and weren’t given the opportunity. 

Some of the major issues surrounding the Port that the public addressed included: 

  • Air pollution – especially the impact on the neighboring communities. Councilwoman Petro-Eschler spoke at the meeting about the proposed Port’s proximity to where her children, and other children play. Increased emissions from Port activity are sure to have health consequences. The level of consequence is uncertain as there has been no Human Health Risk Assessment done.  
  • Water source – UPHE was part of a press release about the Port’s lack of plan or restraint for water use in the ongoing drought. We are already facing increased dust pollution from the shrinking Great Salt Lake. 

“We have had three Wasatch Front dust storms in just the last two weeks. These dust storms shrink our mountain snowpack, are increasing in frequency and intensity, and are a significant new source of hazardous air pollution and toxic heavy metals. Draining the Great Salt Lake for more low wage warehouse jobs is an enormous mistake.” UPHE Board President, Dr. Brian Moench, said in the press release. 

The press release also reminds the public of an existing port water crisis that should serve as a warning for Salt Lake City. A port in Joliet, Illinois is expected to run out of water by 2030 and is proposing billion-dollar projects in a scramble to come up with the resources. 

Utah needs to be wise in their next moves with the Inland Port. The best decision here would be to bail on this project all together. It has been a false promise of economic growth, at the cost of our health and quality of life. 

Now more than ever the public needs to be involved on this matter. By removing Salt Lake City voting representation from the board, despite the Port being located in and directly affecting residents of the city, there is no one on the board representing the interest of the people. Please be on the lookout for future meetings, opportunities to make public comments and ways to get involved. We urge you to join our weekly Thursday evening zoom call.

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KUER’s coverage of the meeting.
KSL’s coverage.
The Salt Lake Tribune’s coverage.