Letter: Salt Lake City must do all it can to make environmental priorities part of inland port contract

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Trucks carrying shipping containers move in and out of the Union Pacific intermodal terminal at a steady pace, west of Salt Lake City. Directly south is the future site of the transloading facility, which will be the heart of the inland port, as seen on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021.

Now that the governor has signed HB443 Utah Inland Port Amendments into law, the Utah Legislature and Salt Lake City are holding all the cards.

The compromise amendment, negotiated between Mike Schultz and Salt Lake City, changes the makeup of the Port Authority Board from 11 to 5 voting members and removes voting representation from affected communities. All five will be appointed by legislative leaders or the governor.

HB443 requires Salt Lake City and the Utah Inland Port authority board to negotiate a 25 year contract. Contract terms include Salt Lake City giving up 65% (instead of 75%) of the tax increment in the port jurisdictional area, decreasing over the next 25 years. With those funds, UIPA is required to spend 40% each on environmental and community mitigation projects and 20% on economic development.

Since the inception of the Utah Inland Port in 2018, the state of Utah and the Port Authority’s focus have been economic development, promoted and incentivized with taxpayer dollars. Over the last four years opposition has grown and a long list of undesirable impacts have been identified. That list includes: impacts to air, soil and water quality, human health, wildlife and bird habitat and the Great Salt Lake and surrounding wetlands. Noise and light pollution, increased pesticide spraying and construction dust are also concerns. Many of these problems could be addressed and would fall under the definition of mitigation. Salt Lake City has an opportunity to inject their environmental priorities into this contract.

Traffic and human health studies, which should have been done long ago, would provide the city with valuable information. This contract will determine the direction port development will take going forward. Please remember this Mayor Mendenhall and the City Council. You are now the only representation that residents of the Salt Lake Valley have in this future altering project. It’s on you to do everything in your power to get it right.

Katie Pappas, Salt Lake City

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