Richard Snelgrove: Salt Lake County Council is working to protect your air and water

Local government has stepped up to oppose new mines in the canyon areas.

Some months ago, the Salt Lake County Council passed an ordinance prohibiting new mineral extraction and processing/mining activities in the county’s unincorporated canyon areas.

As a member of the council, I believe this prohibition was the right thing to do. One of my first responsibilities as an elected official is to ensure that the quality of life that we enjoy is not damaged or degraded by new developments that are within our control. Indeed, when we consider the appropriate land uses for our precious canyons, one of our first responsibilities is to examine how such uses will affect the lives of our residents.

As the other members of the council and I thought about this issue, we became deeply concerned that new mining developments would have a negative effect on air quality with large amounts of dust being put into the air along with diesel fumes from heavy equipment. For some time now, the air quality in Salt Lake County has been close to exceeding EPA regulatory standards. Indeed, air quality issues continue to be a major concern of Salt Lake County residents.

The second major consideration is protecting our watershed. Much of our water supply flows from the Wasatch mountains. Allowing open pit mines in the middle of our watershed presents obvious problems. Providing safe drinking water is a primary function of government. In keeping with that function, protecting our watershed from the sediments that would drain into our drinking water from new mining activities is the right thing to do.

The final consideration is what about the rights of the people who already live in and near our canyons? Allowing a quarry next to existing residences will clearly degrade their properties and quality of life.

One of my first responsibilities as a County Council member is to ensure that new developments in areas we control do not negatively impact people who are already there. I believe this is what we have done as a County Council, in concert with Mayor Jenny Wilson, as we have passed zoning ordinances that will inhibit the ability of the mine proponents to proceed with new quarries. I believe that new mining activities in areas such as Parley’s Canyon would be detrimental to the quality of life of Salt Lake County residents.

We had many comments from the public on this issue, most in strong opposition to allowing new quarries in our canyons. These comments had a direct effect on our actions. As an elected official, I encourage participation in local government decision making and say emphatically that we listen carefully to the comments from the residents that we serve.

Richard Snelgrove | Salt Lake County Council

Richard Snelgrove is an at-large member of the Salt Lake County Council.