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Utah Inland Port Authority votes to adopt West Weber project area plan

By Ryan Aston - | May 20, 2024
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Ben Hart, the Utah Inland Port Authority's executive director, addresses the media during a tour of the West Weber Inland Port project area prior to a vote to adopt its creation on Monday, May 20, 2024.
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A portion of the West Weber Inland Port project area, near 900 S. 8300 West, photographed Monday, May 20, 2024.
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A portion of the West Weber Inland Port project area, near 900 S. 8300 West, photographed Monday, May 20, 2024.

SALT LAKE CITY — Development of an inland port in the West Weber corridor near the Great Salt Lake is officially moving forward.

The Utah Inland Port Authority voted Monday during a board meeting at the Utah State Capitol to adopt a plan that will see a project area of approximately 9,000 acres in Weber County designated for the creation of an inland port. It will be the ninth satellite port area in the state.

Opponents have argued that development of the sparsely-populated area will negatively impact area wetlands and wildlife, as well as air quality throughout the region. Additional concerns about the lake, other natural and cultural resources, and public funding of the project also have been raised.

However, officials with Weber County and the UIPA have noted that the project area, which is largely composed of unincorporated, privately held land, has been zoned for industrial use for decades. They claim that by establishing the inland port project, the shepherding of smart, sustainable development can be ensured.

“I think a lot of people feel like, well, if the inland port goes away, then all of this just stays the same. That’s not true,” UIPA Executive Director Ben Hart said during a media tour prior to the board meeting.

“The individual landowners up here are ready to develop. This is going to develop with or without the Inland Port Authority. The advantages we can bring, one, are wetlands protections, (and) two, much better logistics — there’s going to have to be a lot of logistics improvements up here in this area to accommodate growth. But third, also, how do we get the right types of economic growth as well? We feel like those benefits are something that are unique to the inland port.”

Prior to the vote, officials touted mandated buffer zones between development and sensitive areas: i.e., wetlands and wildlife/waterfowl management areas. It was noted that stakeholders, including the UIPA, would work with landowners to create conservation easements.

Moreover, 3% of the port’s tax differential toward will be designated wetland mitigation.

The creation of jobs, infrastructure and new tax revenue for Weber County also was touted by proponents in the lead-up to Monday’s vote. During the meeting’s public comment session, though, speakers reiterated environmental concerns. And protestors were present at the Capitol during the meeting.

Meanwhile, Stephanie Russell — Weber County’s economic development director — continues to state that the West Weber general plan established by the Weber County Commission will drive development and management of the sector in a proactive and environmentally friendly manner.

“The Commission has established precise mechanisms to scrutinize the influx of development proposals and projects,” Russell said in a statement released after the vote. “Their aim is to ensure that only the most suitable projects are chosen and supported, with each contributing to the economic and environmental sustainability not just of the West Weber corridor, but of Northern Utah as a whole.”

With regard to air quality, Russell told the Standard-Examiner last week that the area’s nonattainment status — a designation given by the Environmental Protection Agency to areas that persistently fall short of meeting national air quality standards — makes it impossible for big polluters to be part of the inland port project.

“We can’t recruit businesses that contaminate the air,” Russell said. “If they do have pollutants or are even slightly above a certain level, they have to put in millions of dollars of filtration, not only to deal with their air problems, but to deal with the area. So anything we put out there is going to have a regulatory piece to it that’s going to require them to clean the air.”

The West Weber Project Area Plan can be viewed online at https://tinyurl.com/36c44wzu.

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