July 22, 2019

What’s With the Utah Inland Port?

Wasatch Environmental Update for July 21, 2019

By John Worlock

Here is a good question:  “What’s with the Utah Inland Port?”  Since there are a variety of answers, two weeks ago I attended some informative sessions hosted by Envision Utah, who are organizing surveys to figure out what the people of Utah want in a new Inland Port, or if they would rather not have one at all.  I am pleased with what I learned, but I need to learn a lot more.

First of all, I was not entirely ignorant.   Salt Lake City had begun to rezone some land in its so-called Northwest Quadrant, with the idea that some transportation-related development might take place in the future.  The State of Utah decided that a good idea needed to be pushed along, They quickly set up an Inland Port Authority, whose major asset would be the control of the normally municipal tax revenues within a massive district stretching well beyond the borders of Salt Lake City.  The State’s actions and words scared a lot of people who envisioned trains and diesel trucks and airplanes bringing in a lot of cargo and running it around in warehouses until it could be shipped elsewhere.  It would be a very messy and polluting business, threatening the welfare of not only the nearby human population but also millions of migratory birds and lots of more stationary wildlife.

Two weeks ago some of those scared and upset people were protesting the Inland Port, and scuffled with police downtown, at the same time that we were calmly learning about it, in civilized discussions organized by Envision Utah.  What a contrast!  But I’m still upset and suspicious.

We are told that “nothing has been decided” and that it’s up to us, the public, to help with the decisions.  But the Port Authority Board raises our suspicions by not opening its meetings to the public.  If “nothing has been decided,” what has been going on in those meetings? What ambitious plans are in the minds of the board members?

Finally, before Envision Utah brings us a new survey on the Inland Port, I hope they take the trouble to help us learn about the current state of cargo traffic in and out of Utah and how the Inland Port would potentially change it.