For immediate release: May 26, 2020
For information: Heather Dove 801-201-3637 or Deeda Seed 801-803-9892

 

Wetlands not protected by Inland Port “Strategic Business Plan”

The newly released, draft Utah Inland Port Authority ‘Strategic Business Plan’ acknowledges the proposed port is slated for development in an area with bird habitat of global importance but provides no assurance it will be protected.

The plan states:

“Great Salt Lake is one of North America’s most important interior wetlands that serve as a nesting and mitigation [sic] stopover location for millions of birds. The site is a designated Hemispheric Site within the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve network, and all major bays are designated as Globally Important Bird Areas. These wetlands also provide essential ecosystem services that moderate surface water and groundwater flows and protect downstream aquatic systems by removing excess nutrients and other pollutants.” (Strategic Business Plan, p. 34)

But then the plan fails to specify how this critical habitat will be protected.

At risk are over 10 million birds from over 300 species.  Birds such as the Snowy Plover and Utah Sensitive Species such as the Burrowing Owl, the Long-billed Curlew, the Loggerhead Shrike, the Short-eared Owl, the Brewer’s Sparrow, the Sage Thrasher and the Bald Eagle (found on the south shore and until recently on the Endangered Species list).

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, over the last 30 years North America has lost 3 billion birds, about a quarter of our bird population. This loss is attributed to such things as habitat degradation, urbanization and the use of toxic pesticides. 

“Development of an inland port, with up to 46 million square feet of new warehouse space will destroy wildlife habitat,” said Joel Ban, a member of the Stop the Polluting Port Coalition’s Wetlands Team.

A recent field trip on May 24, by Wetlands Team members, to view recently completed, and in process construction, revealed development with a lack of concern for environmental protection. From building sites carved out of wetlands, to a construction site strewn with garbage (picture below), to completed construction that lacks any sustainability measures such as best practices regarding stormwater detention and pollution prevention.

“This picture of a ‘green port’ UIPA wants to paint, protecting the environment, is proven false by looking at what’s under construction now,” said Wetlands Team member Heather Dorrell. “They are building enormous polluting warehouses on wetlands right now, with none of the mitigation measures described in the UIPA plan.”

“In over two years, the UIPA has not answered even one question about all our environmental concerns,” said Heather Dove, President of Great Salt Lake Audubon.  “Based on this business plan that spells out only aspirations and not specific strategy and structure, why would we trust the UIPA to develop a port that doesn’t destroy the health and environment of the people and the wildlife of this valley?  The Utah Inland Port boondoggle needs to be stopped now.”
 

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For immediate release: Thursday, May 21, 2020

 

Contacts: 

Deeda Seed (801) 803-9892 dseed@biologicaldiversity.org

Jonny Vasic (385) 707-3677 jvasic@uphe.org

 

Utah Inland Port Business Plan answers none of the critical questions

 

(May 21, 2020 - Salt Lake City, UT) - The Stop the Polluting Port Coalition (STPP) states that the Utah Inland Port Authority Board has spent two years and millions of taxpayer dollars without putting forth even the semblance of a plan. The newly released business plan, which UIPA paid consultants $850,000 to write, falls far short of providing the information Utah taxpayers need to decide if the port is a good use of our hard-earned money. 

 

 “No ordinary business proceeds without a solid, well-thought-out plan. Leave it to our state government to spend millions on a pet project without even trying to assess its impacts or prospects,” said David Scheer, Urban Planner and Architect.

 

"The newly released plan is filled with a lot of words like 'sustainable,'  'renewable energy,' 'zero-emissions,' 'clean technologies,' and 'monitoring,'  but otherwise gives us no actual information.  It gives us no reason to reconsider what has been obvious since the beginning. This inland port will bring a lot more pollution and dirty energy into the Salt Lake Valley, and is exactly the wrong direction for our economic future," said Brian Moench, President of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment.

 

Specifically, this plan answers none of these critical questions.

 

  • How many new trucks and cars will this bring to our roads?

  • How does UDOT plan to handle that congestion?

  • How many new airplane trips?

  • How many new train trips?

  • How much new construction dust?

  • How much new pollution from all these sources can we expect in the nearby communities and the rest of the Salt Lake Valley?  

  • How much electricity will be needed, and how and where will that be generated?

  • What building codes, especially on energy source and usage, will be enforced?

  • How will the profoundly negative impacts that have plagued other inland ports be prevented in this one?

  • How will the impact on wildlife be minimized?

  • How will the mosquitoes that live there now be dealt with?  Will this result in widespread pesticide spraying?

  • How will the stormwater runoff be handled and the contamination of the Great Salt Lake be prevented?

  • How much water will the project require and where will it come from?

  • How much does the viability of the whole project depend on more fossil fuel extraction from the state?

  • How many permanent jobs will be created and what is the likely compensation for those jobs?

  • What will the climate consequences be, and because of that will a new federal government that adheres to scientific realities create obstacles to this project ever being completed?

  • Will the companies involved and tax payers have made a poor investment that ignores future realities and leaves stranded assets that will become worthless? 

  • What plan will be developed to deal with international smuggling and trafficking of illegal goods like drugs?

 

“The business plan released by the Utah Inland Port Authority describes much of the harm the port will bring, but lacks commitments to legally binding remedies,” said Deeda Seed, from the Stop the Polluting Port Coalition. "What is clearly stated in the ‘plan’ is that it’s all dependent on public financing of private business interests, such as Rio Tinto. And what that means is that we, the taxpayers, are subsidizing the harm to our communities.”

 

This plan must be stopped in its tracks until all these questions and concerns are addressed. Common sense suggests that the public won’t like the honest answers.  And because of that, STPP members believe the people living in Salt Lake City and along the Wasatch Front are increasingly aware  that they are being force fed a heavy industry future and an economic dinosaur they should resoundingly reject.  

 

It’s time we allow the public to vote on this project rather than have special 

interests dictating the use of public money behind closed doors. 

 

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For Immediate Release, May 22, 2020

For more information, contact:
  Stan Holmes, UCARE Outreach Coordinator
  801-712-5886
 stholmes3@xmission.com

                                                                                                                       
 Rural Utah Short-Changed by Inland Port Plan
 
  "Rural Utahns are treated as second-class citizens yet again", said UCARE representative Stan Holmes in reference to the just-released Utah Inland Port Authority's Strategic Business Plan.   "The urgent economic needs of Carbon, Emery and other rural Utah counties are paid lip service in deference to urban development on the Wasatch Front.  We expect that the vacuum left by UIPA's Strategic Business Plan will be readily filled by coal, oil, and gas profiteers that have already run afoul of regulatory standards."

  Holmes and other members of the satellite ports team of the Stop The Polluting Port coalition say that the Inland Port Authority's plan inadequately addresses rural Utah's economic challenges.  They argue that the plan ignores the societal and environmental impacts of allowing power brokers like the Community Impact Fund Board (CIB) and the Seven County Infrastructure Coalition to continue pushing fossil fuel projects that keep towns like Price, Duchesne, and Castle Dale dependent on a dying industry.

  The CIB was recently admonished to 'clean up its act' by a legislative audit that found inappropriate practices in excessive grants of public mineral lease monies to favored private interests, especially fossil fuel promoters.  According to UCARE member David Bennett, "This is a corrupt, 'good 'ole boys' network that controls at least one of the seats on the Port Authority board.  It's no wonder that the business plan is so shallow on rural Utah development.  It favors the corrupt status quo."

  Other concerns expressed by the satellite ports team are that the UIPA business plan fails to specifically:
  ~  set guidelines for financing and monitoring satellite port projects
  ~  address how rural communities would handle new energy and water requirements
  ~  identify means to minimize the potential for increased pollution and other forms of environmental degradation  
  ~  incorporate best practices modeling sourced from reputable entities such as the University of Utah's Gardner Policy Institute
  ~  describe how residents of rural communities will participate in planning their future

  Holmes continued that "The satellite ports network has statewide implications whose nature and scope could dwarf what's being considered for Salt Lake City.  One year has passed since Envision Utah's first Satellite Port Development meeting in April 2019, yet UIPA's Strategic Business Plan suggests that no in-depth consideration of alternatives has been generated since then.  Rural Utahns deserve to know why."
 
     ---   end   ---
 
UCARE:  Utah Citizens Advocating Renewable Energy

 

For Immediate Release: 05.05.20
 

Inland Port rushes to build during Pandemic without Public Input or a Business Plan

 

SALT LAKE CITY, May 2nd --- While community and government attention has been drawn to the Covid-19 pandemic, developers in the Utah Inland Port Authority (UIPA) jurisdiction have been busy hastily building an Amazon-sized warehouse in the environmentally sensitive wetlands by the shore of the Great Salt Lake. For the surrounding parking area developers chose the wrong material by using a non-permeable surface, and neglected other measures appropriate for the landscape that could minimize environmental harm. The first of sixty warehouses was finished without proper public input, or even a business plan for the Inland Port.

 

“We are concerned that UIPA is using the pandemic as a way to avoid providing a forum for public comment on their plans.  In fact, the Port Authority board is expected to approve its business plan within a few weeks after introducing it, and before the public will be able to read it, or respond to it,” said Deeda Seed, of the Stop the Polluting Port Coalition.

 

“This lack of planning has been strategic, allowing the UIPA to dismiss public concerns about the Port’s impacts on air quality, wildlife, wetlands, and traffic congestion by making vague promises to build a ‘green’ port,” said David Scheer, an architect and urban planner.

 

“Since February 2018, the UIPA has been spending millions of taxpayer dollars, without any kind of plan, or any kind of environmental impact study. The UIPA hasn’t even said what the Inland Port will consist of,” Scheer said. “This charade may be finally coming to an end, as the UIPA has said it will release a business plan by the end of May.”

 

While the release of a business plan may be welcomed by many in the community, some fear that an end-of-May timeframe means there is no time for a comprehensive environmental impact study. To date, there has been no study of the port’s likely effects on air quality, water quality, wetland preservation, and traffic congestion. In light of recent earthquakes, centered in that area, it would be prudent to address that issue as well.

 

“UIPA wants us to trust that adding 14,600 more diesel semi-trucks to the Salt Lake Valley, 20,000 more commuters, hundreds more plane trips, dozens more smoking train locomotives won’t affect the air you breathe or your health,” said Brian Moench, MD, president of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment.

 

Also, up to ten million birds migrate annually through this wetland area, designated as a “Global Important Bird Area” by Bird Life International and the Audubon Society. The concerns for this unique habitat are multilayered. Air pollution, light pollution, noise pollution, water pollution, collision hazards, invasive weeds, and mosquito abatement will all impact the migrating birds, according to Heather Dove, president of Great Salt Lake Audubon.

 

UIPA has not disclosed what steps the Inland Port will take to prevent or substantially mitigate traffic congestion along I-15 and I-80. A coalition of community organizations has projected that the port will increase traffic by approximately 34,600 vehicles per day.

 

When the plan is revealed, Scheer is concerned that it will be incomplete. ”What is needed is not just a business plan, but a full master plan showing the layout of the port’s roads and addressing all the possible impacts of the port and laying out strategies for mitigating them.”

 

If UIPA releases its business plan by the end of May, Scheer, numerous community groups and individuals, are hoping that they will get their chance to respond before the Port Authority board approves the plan.

For immediate release: 3/19/20

Stop the Polluting Port Coalition calls for halt to port planning until COVID-19 crisis is over

 

The COVID-19 and earthquake emergencies, raise critical questions about the viability of an inland port in the northwest quadrant of Salt Lake City, and the public’s ability to participate in important planning meetings.

Citing the COVID-19 and earthquake emergencies, members of a local citizens coalition want inland port planning stopped until the crisis has passed.  “The current situation raises critical questions about the viability of an inland port in the northwest quadrant of Salt Lake City and the public’s ability to participate in the planning process," said Deeda Seed, spokesperson for the Stop the Polluting Port Coalition.
 

Because of ‘shelter in place’ requirements it will be impossible for the public to fully engage in public meetings where critical decisions could be made, including one where the Port Authority intends to release its business plan, and another where it will adopt the business plan.  Also, COVID-19 and the economic recession it may bring, raises questions about the financial viability of the proposed port, and whether we should be investing public resources in it.

 

"The inability of affected communities, community organizations and individuals to engage in upcoming Port Authority activities should serve notice to the Port Authority to table ANY decisions concerning the Port until current ‘social distancing’ constraints are lifted,” said Richard Holman, Chair of the Westside Coalition.

 

Also, the epicenter of our recent earthquake was directly below the Rio Tinto/Kennecott tailings impoundment in the area designated for inland port development. The entire area proposed for port development is riddled with faults and suffered from the most severe shaking.  As the delays and cost overruns at the state prison under construction show, the entire Inland Port area contains soils that are unstable during an earthquake, calling into question the wisdom of massive public investment in the Port.

 

“The Legislature was warned they couldn’t have picked a worse place for the port.  The integrity of Kennecott’s tailings impoundment has been a matter of dispute, alarm, and scandal for three decades,” said Dr. Brian Moench, Board President of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment.   “We are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to protect key buildings throughout the Valley from the near certainty of earthquakes even stronger than Wednesday’s, yet we are subsidizing building an inland port that will almost certainly, eventually, become smothered by that massive impoundment.”

 

Before any more planning takes place, or money is spent, the coalition wants answers to the following questions from the Utah Inland Port Authority (UIPA):

How does the Covid-19 pandemic effect inland port planning and development schedules? What provisions has UIPA made to engage with state and local health officials assessing impacts of the current pandemic and long-range planning for future crises that may affect inland port workers and residents near inland port facilities?

The massive Kennecott-Rio Tinto tailings impoundment was at the epicenter of the 5.7 magnitude earthquake.  How does UIPA plan to address the potential (catastrophic) impacts of this geo-hazard to surrounding communities? To warehouses and other business and industry planned for the UIPA jurisdictional land?  To the environment, nearby bird sanctuaries, and Great Salt Lake? To what extent is UIPA engaging geologists, architects, economists, and public health officials who can provide the range of impacts to an inland port system in the event of a 7.0-7.5 or greater earthquake that is likely to strike Salt Lake Valley in the future.
 

Strong wind events like those in the past few days have carried large quantities of dust off the tailings impoundment and nearby playa toward the new prison and inland port construction sites.  How does UIPA intend to address the serious air quality and health effects such events cause now and in the future?

 

How does the UIPA Board propose to conduct meetings and staff to conduct community outreach given the current need for social distancing?  What measures will UIPA take to assure the public of access to and transparency in UIPA activities?


The 2020 Legislature appropriated $4 million for UIPA. How does UIPA foresee spending this funding considering the economic slowdown due to coronavirus?

 

In light of all of these concerns, the Stop the Polluting Port Coalition demands that the Utah Inland Port Authority Board suspend all of its meetings and other activities until the COVID-19 crisis has passed and public input can resume.
 

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