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Letter: Conserving water is a high priority, but the Inland Port undermines it

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Deeda Seed, of Stop the Polluting Port Coalition, center, is joined by representatives from environmental, conservation, and community groups that are part of the coalition as they release a major report outlining the potential environmental harms from the proposed Utah Inland Port during a press conference at the Utah Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020.

Gov. Cox and Mayor Mendenhall have declared a water emergency for Utah and Salt Lake City. At the same time, however, the Utah legislature has given the Inland Port Authority $75 million dollars of taxpayer money in a slush fund for infrastructure projects. It is impossible to reconcile the intent of these two sentences, because the Inland Port will require enormous quantities of water for its operations.

This gift from the Legislature was formulated by Sen. Jerry Stevenson and Rep. Francis Gibson, neither of whom live in the Salt Lake Valley. Written as Senate Bill 243, it was introduced late in the recent session and had one quick discussion before it was passed and signed by the governor. The public had very little opportunity to weigh in or even grasp the contents of the bill.

The Inland Port is a tax-subsidized developer’s dream. Located between the new prison and the international airport, it will be a mammoth undertaking. If and when it is completed, the port could have 152 million feet of floor space, but no residential housing for its workers. There will be, literally, daily trips by thousands of diesel-spewing semi-trucks and private vehicles, locomotives shuttling goods back and forth, cargo airplanes arriving both day and night, and huge cranes to move shipping containers and other things about. Add rows of planned warehouses and ugly asphalt parking lots, and the result is a huge demand for lots of water.

Last October, more than 120 prominent Utahns signed the Utah Climate and Clean Air Compact. Does this compact mean anything other than to be conveniently forgotten? Were any of the legislators, port leaders, or board members there for the signing ceremony?

From my own personal experience of 90-plus years, I instinctively know that Utah’s climate is drying up and warming. Winters are not what they used to be. Where will water for the port come from as the population in the Salt Lake valley continues to increase rapidly? It is conceivable that the diversion of water from the Great Salt Lake will soon turn the lake into a series of stagnant, disconnected little puddles. Prevailing winds from the dry lakebed could bring to Salt Lake City large quantities of semi-poisonous dust to compound the constant air pollution emanating from the port. Will we be compelled to take short, weekly showers because the port must have its water?

Conserving water has become a high priority in Utah, according to Gov. Cox. Now Is the time for Salt Lake residents to come together and prevent any further expansion of the Inland Port.

James King, Salt Lake City

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