Gravel extraction bill passes through Utah House after debate over pits, property rights

(Trent Nelson | Tribune file photo) Geneva Rock's operations at Point of the Mountain, straddling Utah and Salt Lake Counties, Tuesday September 22, 2015.

A bill written to add protections for gravel mining operations cleared the Utah House on Thursday after debate over the balance between property rights and local government authority.

Utah Rep. Logan Wilde said his proposal, which would create special zones that could protect existing extraction operations, is designed to keep gravel resources close to the expanding communities that depend on them.

“Gravel starts to become expensive when you transport it very long distances,” Wilde, R-Croyden, said.

However, several lawmakers rose with concerns about the legislation, HB288, saying it could restrict the ability of local governments to regulate gravel pits.

“It gives insufficient protection to local residents who live near these gravel pits, and so, when the winds blow, they feel the effects of it,” Rep. Merrill Nelson, R-Grantsville said.

Wilde’s bill touches upon a growing controversy along the Wasatch Front, where sand and gravel operations are expanding to support Utah’s rapid growth. Now expanding residential areas are pressing against these quarries, such as Geneva Rock’s Point of the Mountain operation in Draper.

Some representatives, though, argued that encroaching communities are the problem rather than the pits themselves.

“Maybe the blame should be placed on the developer for buying those lands,” said Rep. Carl Albrecht, R-Richfield.

Wilde’s bill passed by a vote of 51-20 and will now go to the Senate for consideration.