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Letter: Myths about the inland port

A sign on the door of the Utah Association of Counties offices in Murray informs people that the Inland Port Authority meeting scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019, was moved to a new address.
A sign on the door of the Utah Association of Counties offices in Murray informs people that the Inland Port Authority meeting scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019, was moved to a new address.
Steve Griffin, Deseret News

The Utah Inland Port is the result of thoughtful analysis

No one, including the Port Authority Board, knows what the Utah Inland Port is or will be. Standing the usual process on its head, the state legislature created the Inland Port Authority and empowered it to take over taxing and land use authority from local municipalities without a master plan from which to estimate costs, without any environmental analysis, without even a well-documented business plan demonstrating economic benefit. A business person coming to a bank for a loan without so little information would be laughed out of the office. None of this planning has yet been done.

The state Legislature collaborated with Salt Lake City to create the inland port

After considerable discussion, the city chose not to include a port in its 2016 northwest quadrant plan. The port was imposed by the state Legislature on Salt Lake City over the strenuous objections of its residents. The final version of the legislation creating the port was passed during the final hours of the 2018 session, denying the city and the public time to review it. After the port’s creation, discussions between city council members and state legislators yielded few changes. One of the chief “concessions” to the city claimed by the state — a natural buffer zone between the port and the Great Salt Lake — merely acknowledged the reality that the buffer zone already existed in the NWQ master plan and enshrined in city agreements with developers. They weren’t giving much away since the land in the buffer is mostly unsuitable for development anyway.

The inland port will create good jobs

Proponents claim that the port will create numerous high-quality jobs. Unfortunately, this has not been the experience of other cities in the U.S. where such ports have been created. In places like Elwood, Illinois, the reality has been that most of the jobs created are warehouse jobs that do not pay a living wage or provide benefits. To make matters worse, these jobs are being phased out as workers are displaced by automation.

The inland port controversy is about money

The expropriation of municipal and school district taxing authority by the Inland Port Authority is indeed a contentious issue. However, the controversy surrounding the port is not primarily about money. It is about the impact the port, and the massive amounts of vehicular and rail traffic it will generate, will have on our already poor air quality, on critical wildlife habitat and on the overall quality of life in the Salt Lake Valley. The controversy is also about the lack of transparency of an unelected, unrepresentative board and a farcical “public outreach” effort that gulls residents into believing they can influence decisions that have in fact already been made.

More broadly, opposition to the port is about the unsustainable path on which it will set Utah’s economy. For all the talk about creating manufacturing jobs, the real interests behind the port are the coal and oil and gas industries. Utah should not be investing in a carbon-based economy that cannot be sustained.

Opponents of the inland port are either local residents or rabble-rousers

The vast majority of those opposing the port have consistently respected the processes established by the Port Authority Board (and have been thoroughly ignored for their trouble). These are simply citizens voicing their concerns about a port they believe is a huge mistake, environmentally and economically, one that will irreparably damage this beautiful place we all call home.

David Scheer is the chairman of The Capitol Hill Action Group. Deeda Seed represents the Center for Biological Diversity. Dorothy Owen is the chairman of Westpointe Community Council. Jonny Vasic is the executive director of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment. Richard Holman is chairman of the Westside Coalition.