Mining, trucking plan draws little response
PANGUITCH - Residents in this south-central Utah community were few in number and had even fewer questions during a meeting called this week to discuss the possibility that coal-heavy semitrailers would be rumbling through town every 10 minutes.
Alton Coal Development, based in Huntington in Emery County, hopes to surface-mine 2 million tons of coal a year from about 3,600 acres of federal land plus 400 acres of private land in Kane County.
Thursday was the third of five public scoping meetings planned as part of an environmental-impact study (EIS) for the project, known as the Cross Hollow Mine. It's located 12 miles southwest of Bryce Canyon National Park and three miles east of the tiny town of Alton.
If the mine is approved, the most noticeable impact would likely come from the parade of double-trailer, coal-hauling semis running through Panguitch - a town that was placed on the National Historic Register in November.
Garfield County Commissioner Maloy Dodds, who attended Thursday's meeting, said he thought the potential economic windfall from the project would be worth the increased traffic.
He said the county lost 200 jobs several years ago when a sawmill closed down.
"We could use the jobs," he said. "We just approved two new subdivisions; we've got great infrastructure."
Panguitch Mayor Art Cooper agreed. He was optimistic the project could bring economic relief the town has been waiting to come for the past 48 years.
He said that truck traffic has increased since SR-20 was improved three years ago and now is used by truckers as a shortcut to Phoenix.
And Kane County Commissioner Mark Habbeshaw is pleased that part of the 12.4 percent royalty that would be paid to the federal government on the mined coal would go to Kane County.
He said having such a steady stream of cash would increase the county's ability to obtain grants and low -interest loans from the state's Community Impact Board.
Alton project manager Allen Childs said he was disappointed by the small number of residents who attended the Panguitch meeting, but said he was pleased with turnouts at earlier meetings in Alton and Kanab.
BLM spokesman Larry Crutchfield said the draft EIS could be completed by June 2008, followed by a 90-day public-comment period. A final EIS for public review could be ready by December 2008, with a record of decision by January 2009.
Childs said if all goes smoothly, mining could start in 2011.
* Size of federal coal lease: 46 million tons of coal on 3,600 acres.
* Private land to be mined: 1,200 acres.
* Scale of proposed project: 2 million tons of coal a year.
* Type of mining: Surface mining from 16-foot-thick coal seam no more than 200 feet beneath surface. Mining will be done in 120-acre sections. Top soil and overburden from each section will be used to reclaim previous section.
* Transportation: Semitrailers will roll every 10 minutes, 24 hours a day, north on U.S. Highway 89 through Panguitch, west on State Route 20 to Interstate 15, then south to load-out facility near Cedar City rail spur.
* Two more public scoping meetings are scheduled for Feb. 6 at the Cedar City Library, and Feb. 7 at the Salt Lake City Main Library.
* Documents on the proposed Cross Hollow Mine project are available for public review weekdays (except holidays) at the Kanab Field Office of the BLM, 318 N. 100 East, Kanab, UT 84741.
* Written comments can be mailed to Keith Rigtrup at that office or faxed to him at 435-644-4620.
* If the process runs smoothly, the mine could begin operating in early 2011.