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A new gravel pit for Utah County? Feds weigh proposal for 30-acre site

Gravel pits help feed Utah’s No. 1 housing growth in U.S.

Interpretive display at the Stagecoach Inn, Fairfield, Utah.
Interpretive display at the Stagecoach Inn, Fairfield, Utah.
Kenneth Mays

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s booming economy means challenges like population growth, increasing urbanization, new road construction and state housing growth that led the nation in one year’s time.

It also means growing demand for the raw material for all those houses, new roads and businesses.

To that end, the Bureau of Land Management is weighing a proposal by Ames Construction for a new gravel pit operation in a side canyon of the western slopes of Lake Mountain in Utah County.

Public comment on the 30-acre project ended Feb. 14, giving residents and other interested parties a chance to weigh the considerations that went into an environmental analysis looking at a wide variety of impacts, including those to wildlife, potential cultural resources and socioeconomic benefits.

The project itself, according to the BLM, would have impacts that are “indiscernible” to the communities of Fairfield and Eagle Mountain, but it would be visually “intrusive” for homes and visitors along Lake Mountain Road or for anyone traveling to Wildcat Canyon.

Fairfield is a tiny community about 6 miles west of the proposed gravel pit operation.

Mayor Brad Gurney said truck traffic and dust pollution are the community’s primary concerns.

“As a community we are opposed to it because of that,” he said.

The operation, if approved, has a 10-year life and is limited to no more than 50,000 cubic yards of material. Operators would engage in blasting operations one to two times a week, but suspend blasting during times of big game migration.

Dust control would be handled through a variety of means, including spraying water and limiting the truck traffic to 25 mph. The federal agency anticipates there could be 100 round-trips daily by trucks hauling the material.

Ames Construction would also be required to use downward facing lights to minimize light pollution.

A rock art organization raised concern over damage to potential sites in the area, but a survey showed no existence of cultural resources. The review also showed no impacts to any sage grouse habitat, an imperiled species, and no interference with public recreational access in the area.

Gurney said there is another gravel pit operation just getting started near Five Mile Pass that likely will have more impact to the community than this proposal, but added both operations are concerning.

While they are a source of material needed to support Utah’s frenetic growth, gravel pits are controversial due to the truck traffic, the dust, the alteration of the landscape itself and the noise.

A proposal to expand Geneva’s Point of the Mountain gravel pit operations stoked controversy in surrounding communities a year ago, and North Salt Lake residents have long complained about gravel pit operations near their homes. The issue has also been contentious in Morgan County, where there are at least a dozen gravel pits.