Comments on Granite Construction’s application for stream alteration in Parley’s Canyon

Granite Construction has been trying to build a massive mine and gravel pit in Parley’s Canyon. Despite “reassurances” they would not impact the environment, they filed for a permit to alter Smith’s Creek. See our official comments to the Utah Division of Water Rights regarding that application below:

June 3, 2024

Chuck Williamson,
Utah Division of Water Rights Stream Alteration Specialist

Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment (UPHE) submit the following comments in opposition to Granite Construction’s application for stream alternation of Smith’s Creek in Parley’s Canyon, Alteration Permit: 24-57-0015, and Mountair Private Road Company’s (MPRC) stream Alteration Permit: Stream Alteration Permit: 24-57-0017.

UPHE objects to these applications for multiple reasons, described below, and asks the state engineer to reject both permit applications as contrary to state and federal law.

1. They will have “unreasonable and unnecessary” environmental impacts on the natural stream environment, in violation of Utah Code § 73-3-29(4)(b). The only reason for Granite’s application is to facilitate the limestone quarry pursued by Granite Construction and property owner Jesse Lassley. That proposed quarry is itself “unreasonable and unnecessary” in its environmental impacts, and therefore the stream alteration application should be considered only in that context. The only reason for MPRC’s application is in the event that Granite is able to obtain all the permits necessary to build the mine. More about the relationship between the applications follows under Item #2.

Degradation of this stream by these proposed alterations would be a significant impairment of the general function of the stream, and the use of the steam as a public asset. Smith Creek is already an “impaired waterway.” It is frequently used by, and essential to, wildlife in Parley’s Canyon. Alteration of the stream would serve only Granite’s purposes, which are contradictory to the interests and preferences of the overwhelming majority of the directly affected public.

Additionally, Upper Parley’s Creek and its tributaries (of which Smith Creek is one) are designated “high quality waters” in accordance with UAC R371-2, and carry an anti- degradation policy, R371-2-3. Category 1 waters are designated waters of high quality with important recreational and/or ecological significance and require protection as such to maintain their function as a public asset.

Finally, the quarry will be fought in court by multiple groups, on multiple legal fronts. It is hardly clear that the quarry will ever happen, and certainly not in the near future given the looming court battles that will undoubtedly by appealed by either side, regardless of the initial rulings. The ultimate court decision will be years from now and Granite’s winning that court battle is far from guaranteed. At the very least, ruling in Granite’s favor on this application in the near future is “unnecessary” and extremely premature.

  1. Simultaneous with Granite’s application is another stream alteration application from Mt. Aire residents via Mountair Private Road Company (MPRC). Despite MPRC’s claim that their stream alteration application is independent of Granite’s application and is only for improved “safety,” the claim is belied by MPRC’s own communications with Granite regarding this project. We refer to a letter dated Feb. 16, 2024 from Freddie Stromness, President of MPRC to the Army Corp of Engineers that is included with Granite’s application. In that letter, Stromness states, “Potential future heavy truck traffic on the access road would traverse right through the area utilized by the Mountair Community for parking both snow vehicles and road vehicles causing serious safety concerns for people accessing Mountair Canyon. UDOT, Granite Construction, Tree Farm, and the Mountair Communityy (sic) have worked together in a collaborative effort to develop a new traffic design plan that achieves the best and safest access for all parties who use Exit #132 now and into the future… The Mountair Community strongly supports the proposed Smith Creek piping and access road relocation. We thank UDOT, Granite Construction, and Tree Farm for working with us to resolve anticipated safety issues.” (emphasis added)

    Granite’s application provides further evidence of the connectedness of these stream alteration permit requests. Granite’s application states, “Granite and the Mountair Private Road Company (MPRC) have mutually agreed to this solution,” and the purpose of the project is to benefit “MPRC and Granite.” Granite Application, at 2. The Granite Application includes a letter of support from MPRC. Granite Application, at 10.

    These two projects were submitted concurrently, both applicants collaborated with each other, and the projects are contiguous. Clearly they are linked; indeed, the MPRC project is only being pursued to protect their parking availability in the event Granite’s application were to be approved. Without Granite’s application and proposed quarry, MPRC would have no need to submit its own alteration application. In other words, the Mt. Air application is dependent solely on Granite’s application.

    Properly considered together as a single and complete project, as UDWR should do, the alteration applications have combined length of 306 ft. Because this length exceeds the threshold by which the US Army Corp of Engineers (USACE) must be involved according to an agreement between the state of Utah and the USACE, see Programmatic General Permit 10 (“PGP-10”), UDWR must engage with USACE and get its approval before issuing any stream alteration permits here.
  2. The climate crisis is universally predicted by climate scientists to continue to intensify, and highly likely to decrease snow pack in the Wasatch Front, impairing its watershed capability, and stressing vegetation and wildlife (both aquatic and terrestrial). But to make matters worse, as we have seen in the last few years, this may be periodically punctuated by anomalously high precipitation, and when that occurs, confining the stream to culverts could render it incapable of handling high flows. The “ordinary high water mark” may not reflect future water flows in the creek under these circumstances. According to the application, Granite offers no “mitigation” to the consequences of their requested stream alteration. We find that unacceptable to the use of the stream as a public asset.

The requested stream alteration should therefore be denied and the impacts evaluated as part of the mine proposal itself. It is unreasonable to evaluate constructing another culvert of Smith Creek in isolation without simultaneously evaluating the impacts that the associated massive mining operation will have on the water flows and springs in a canyon increasingly threatened by higher temperatures and precipitation extremes. It is a given that construction and operation of the mine and the required stream alteration will “unreasonably and unnecessarily” affect recreational use, the natural stream environment, endanger aquatic life, and diminish the natural channel’s ability to handle high flows.

UPHE has also signed on comments submitted by Save Our Canyons and agrees with the comments submitted by Millcreek on May 31, 2024. We have attached, and incorporate by reference herein, the entirety of Save Our Canyons and Millcreek’s comments as UPHE’s own comments.


Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment Brian Moench MD, President

More on the issues with the proposal for Parley’s Canyon here.