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Gravel-pit plans upset residents in nearby Pleasant View, Willard

Residents here and in nearby Willard are upset over a plan to build a large gravel pit along U.S. 89 straddling the Box Elder-Weber county line.

The battle between Orem-based Geneva Rock and local residents is unlikely to be the last such confrontation on the Wasatch Front.Rapid growth has fueled demand for the sand and gravel that underpins new homes and highways, while more and more new homes are spreading into areas rich in gravel.

Gravel pits may be important to the economy, but that's no consolation to the folks who would become neighbors of Geneva Rock's planned pit, and the noise and dust they expect it would bring.

"We've been here 23 years," said James Scott, whose three-acre Pleasant View property lies just south of the land Geneva Rock plans to acquire. "We've enjoyed the rural country atmosphere, and I just think it would be pretty much destroyed if the Geneva project is approved."

The company has applied to have 29 acres in Box Elder County and 19 in Weber County rezoned to allow gravel pit operations, but Geneva Rock officials have said they plan to acquire a total of more than 300 acres.

Both counties have tabled Geneva Rock's request until a joint meeting of commissioners and planning commission members from both counties on Feb. 5.

Company officials say a new pit is a must for Geneva Rock to stay in the northern Utah market. The company's South Weber pit, near the junction of U.S. 89 and I-84 at the mouth of Weber Canyon, may be tapped out within 20 years, said Carl Clyde, manager of the company's sand and gravel division.

"We don't have an alternative," he said. "You got to go where the gravel is."

Much of the gravel is on the benches of the Wasatch Front, thanks to prehistoric Lake Bonneville, which covered western Utah and parts of Idaho and Nevada until about 15,000 years ago. The lake's surface was about 1,000 feet above today's Great Salt Lake.

The demand for gravel - for home construction and I-15 renovation - is fed by 50 or so pits along the Wasatch Front, said Ursula Trueman, director of the state Division of Air Quality.

Many gravel pit operators are asking for permission to take more sand and gravel from their pits, Trueman said.

"They've just about all had violations," she said. "Short of posting somebody full-time at each facility it's impossible to assure 100 percent compliance."

Collin Wood, city administrator of North Salt Lake, home to several large gravel operations, said noise and dust from gravel pits has been a problem for years in North Salt Lake.

"Gravel pits and residents aren't a good mix," he said. "I wouldn't recommend it to anyone."

As for Geneva Rock, the company just needs to be able to find a place where it can continue to operate, Clyde said.

"Our desire is that the county and the cities would get together and say, `Let's designate natural resource areas,"' he said. "I don't know any place that doesn't impact people."