The Utah Inland Port and Utah’s wetlands problem
New Inland Port locations have been rapidly approved across the state this year, and many of them are posing a threat to wetlands. In addition to the the SLC location which has a significant impact on wetlands and uplands, they approved inland port project areas in Spanish Fork in Utah Lake wetlands and close to Utah Lake, in Brigham City less than half a mile from the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, and are poised to adopt project areas in Tooele County and Weber County next to Great Salt Lake and wetlands.
In response to criticism and concern over the Port’s proximity to wetlands, they are proposing a “comprehensive wetlands policy.” Their draft policy (which may be approved at a meeting in September) writes, “Landowners within UIPA project areas that have wetlands present on their properties may be eligible for UIPA incentives if their projects avoid impacting the wetlands on their property, enhance or restore existing wetlands on or near their property, establish new wetlands on or near their property, or permanently preserve existing wetlands near their property at the benefit of the surrounding environment. Mitigation of wetlands that are part of a larger wetland complex should be prioritized. Additionally, wetland mitigation projects that are located near wildlife/waterfowl management areas or national refuges or create natural buffer zones between wetland complexes and development areas should be prioritized. Actions that leave only isolated small wetlands surrounded by development are disfavored.”
The draft policy does not provide enough protection and is a tiny amount in comparison to the harm that will be inflicted. UIPA needs to implement science-based policies to protect wetlands, and not offer a promise just to placate the public. UIPA’s quick approval of the project areas so close to or on wetlands proves their priorities. The SLC location was approved 5 years ago, no environmental impact statement has been done.
“The port authority has (made) promises about environmental protection in the past that they have not followed up with in any way,” Deeda Seed, our partner on the Stop the Polluting Port Coalition said to KSL in a recent article on the new proposed policy. “This area of industrial development that’s happening next to these areas is of great concern. What the port authority does … they fast-track growth. Our position is that that is not a smart thing to do — to subsidize and fast-track growth of industrial development — on the edges of a lake that’s absolutely in crisis makes absolutely no sense whatsoever,” she expanded.
Remediating wetlands does far less than preserving them.
Wetlands are crucial not only to a healthy ecosystem of the lakes they surround, but to local air quality as well. If wetlands aren’t preserved properly, it leads to them drying and exacerbating the dust issues we’re already seeing in Utah.