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Utah Legislature: House committee says Stockton sandbar resolution still needs work

SALT LAKE CITY — A resolution urging the state to recognize the Stockton sandbar as a unique geological formation will require a bit more work before it gets a legislative nod of approval.

Sponsored by Rep. Rhonda Menlove, R-Garland, the Stockton Bar Geologic Formation resolution seeks to draw attention to the ice age-era sandbar in Tooele County.

The measure was detailed Tuesday before members of the House Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Standing Committee.

Marjorie Chan, a geology professor at the University of Utah, said the sandbar is the "largest and best of its kind in the Western Hemisphere."

Because the sandbar is also host to high-quality gravel that does not need to be altered before it is put to use, the area has been subjected to mining.

"Scientists come from all over the world to view this, but it is in danger of being permanently removed, forever altered," Chan said.

The sandbar also serves not only as a recreational lure but as an atmospheric wind break that, if decimated by mining activity, would subject the area to dust storms and other weather hazards.

The Utah Department of Transportation is among three property owners of the sandbar area, according to Menlove.

UDOT, she said, has been working out details of a potential trade with Tooele County to pursue gravel operations elsewhere.

Residents, however, fear mining may continue and destroy the natural wonder.

The resolution failed on a split vote, however, and Menlove was told to add language that makes plain the state is not interfering with the desires of private property owners.

Of concern is that the resolution, while nonbinding, could be construed that the private property rights of owners in the sandbar area aren't being recognized.

"My concern is that if there is this much controversy" over the issue that the resolution could be used in any subsequent litigation, said Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab. "Private property rights are an inviolate right that we need to protect."

Menlove said she would bring the resolution back to the committee.

e-mail: amyjoi@desnews.com