Wasatch Environmental Update for February 25, 2018
By John Worlock
“Utah Legislature’s Countdown to Adjournment – 2018”
By law the the 2018 Session of the Utah Legislature will end soon, on Thursday, March 8. These are dangerous days, as nerves are frazzled and there is little time for conscious thought. Occasionally bills that were thought to be dead, revive, and silently slip onto the governor’s desk.
We’ve been spending a long snowy afternoon, studying the progress of a few bills on the legislature’s informative website. It’s at ell eee dot utah dot gov. Go there. Explore. It will tell you everything you want to know if you are patient and diligent in your exploration.
Since we have talked about dead bills, lets briefly visit HB255, called “Extrajurisdictrional Municipal Property,” now sleeping quietly in its committee assignment, from which it will not likely awaken. It sought to prevent municipalities from owning property outside of their boundaries. It would have prevented Salt Lake City, for example, to purchase properties offered to them within their historical watershed, in the City Creek and Cottonwood Canyons. It would have prevented Park City to purchase and put into a perpetual conservation easement the vast acreage at the top of the Central Wasatch Mountains known as Bonanza Flats. Rest in Peace: HB255! Long live Bonanza Flats!
We turn now to a dangerous bill dealing with extraterritorial jurisdiction. It is Mike Noel’s HB135, called Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Amendments. This bill is designed to strip Salt Lake City of the power to regulate its historical watersheds. Salt Lake City’s control of the watersheds has guaranteed pure and inexpensive water for many of the residents of Salt Lake Valley, and has had the benefit of regulating the development in the Wasatch Canyons of both commercial and private enterprises. Noel’s bill would eliminate the City’s ridgeline-to-ridgeline jurisdiction, reducing it to three hundred feet on each side of the Cottonwood Creeks, a small and insignificant fraction of the real watershed.
To our dismay and disappointment, this bill has been approved and forwarded by the relevant Committee to the House of Representatives, where we can expect a party-line vote sending it on to the Senate.
We mentioned Dismay and Disappointment: to which we now add Despair. We can only hope for some miracle in the Senate in the waning days of this legislative session.