FARMINGTON -- Several new opponents to the West Davis Corridor have emerged with the state's release of the public comments it has received on the controversial road.
Late Friday night, the Utah Department of Transportation posted all 1,617 comments they received on their preferred alternative for the West Davis Corridor.
The comments come from a wide variety of interested stakeholders, ranging from individual citizens and citizens groups to large federal government entities and international corporations. The comments can be viewed at www.udot.utah.gov/westdavis.
Among the many groups and individuals who submitted comments, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Utah Reclamation, Mitigation and Conservation Commission, the Utah Department of Environmental Quality and even the Utah Transit Authority have all voiced concerns or outright objections about UDOT's preferred route for the West Davis road.
Most of the opposition revolves around the same issue: the damage the road could cause to nearby wetlands.
The Corps of Engineers, who gives final approval on certain federal permits the state must obtain before building the road, says there are "additional modifications (to UDOT's alternative) that would further avoid and minimize impacts to the aquatic ecosystem" near the Great Salt Lake.
The Corps says the Great Salt Lake, including its adjacent wetlands, provides high quality stop-over and breeding habitat for more than 257 species of migratory birds.
In UDOT's draft Environmental Impact Statement, the state maintained that the wetlands near the Great Salt Lake have been so extensively altered during the past century that very few, if any, undisturbed habitats remain.
In the Corps' letter though, it says that logic "underscores the importance in the lead-agencies' commitment to avoidance and minimization of further impacts to the portions of the GSL ecosystem that remains."
The Corps finishes be telling UDOT that it believes other alternatives already presented by the state could be pushed forward with fewer impacts to the aquatic ecosystem. It specifically mentions that an alignment that follows Shepard Lane in Farmington rather than the Glovers Lane option UDOT has chosen, would impact fewer high-quality wetlands.
But as Kaysville Mayor Steve Hiatt says in Kaysville City's official comment to the state, the Shepard Lane option would take more homes and businesses.
"(The Glovers option) will have the least amount of impact to the natural and human environment while providing the most regional mobility benefit," Hiatt says in the city's letter.
The letters from the EPA and the other agencies mostly echo what was mentioned in the Corps of Engineers letter, but UTA says the state's choice for the road could encroach not only on migratory bird species or wetland areas, but on future transit development plans.
In UTA's letter, the transit agency says that "the proposed ramp connecting the West Davis Corridor with I-15 appears to occupy the space needed for the future double tracking of FrontRunner." UTA says this conflict is "an unacceptable impact to UTA because the future double tracking of the FrontRunner system is critical to providing future ridership capacity increases and increasing operating speeds and on-time reliability."
UTA's letter also cites concerns about conflicts between the corridor and UTA's Denver & Rio Grande Western Rail Trail system, which spans about 25 miles from 400 North in West Bountiful to about Hinckley Drive in the Roy/West Haven area, right along the D&RGW corridor, just west of the active Union Pacific rail line.
UTA does concede that the new corridor would likely help in providing bus connections to FrontRunner stops along the Top of Utah.
UDOT says the West Davis study team is now in the process of reviewing each comment that was submitted during the public comment period.
As the comments are reviewed, changes to the EIS document, the alternatives and UDOT's preferred alternative may occur, the state says.
A final record of decision on the road was expected by spring of 2014, but that timeline could now change.
"Once we have reviewed all the comments, we will have a better indication of the time frame needed to address each comment and how that might affect the overall EIS schedule," says a statement released by UDOT.
Contact reporter Mitch Shaw at 801-625-4233 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @mitchshaw23.