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Weber County inland port critics reiterate worries, speak out as potential decision looms


OGDEN — With action looming on the proposed Weber County inland port initiative, some critics are decrying the limited time they’ll be be given to comment and ask questions at a public meeting on Thursday.

As advertised, just 10 people will be able to put questions to a panel of people involved in the western Weber County industrial development project and they’ll each have one minute to talk. The development area spans some 8,785 acres of largely undeveloped land, some of it wetlands near the Great Salt Lake, of particular worry for the foes.

“I would hope for more robust public engagement,” said Amy Wicks, of Ogden, one of 250 or so Weber County signatories to a petition asking for more inquiry into the inland port plans before moving forward. Officials involved in the plans, she charges, have done a “poor job” of engaging with the public.

A county spokeswoman, though, said county officials won’t necessarily hold strict to the 10-person limit. Weber County is organizing the meeting. “If there are more questions, we’ll accommodate,” said Jessika Clark.

Either way, with the Utah Inland Port Board scheduled to take action on whether to move forward with the Weber County proposal, its critics are speaking out, reiterating concerns they’ve voiced as the process has unfolded in recent months. Thursday’s listening session will be just four days before the inland port board meeting, when the officials are scheduled to consider the adoption of the Weber County project area and budget, a key step in the process.

Among other things, the critics charge that the process has been rushed and that word about the Weber County plans hasn’t gotten out to enough people. Weber County officials initially approved a proposal last August asking state inland port officials to consider a 903-acre project, then in January amended that, approving a proposal calling for the more expansive development spread over 8,785 acres.

“In recent weeks, residents have begun calling their respective city government representatives. Council members and mayors throughout Weber County have indicated they are not up to speed on the project, and the Weber Area Council of Governments has not yet discussed it,” reads a statement released by the critics on Tuesday. The Weber Area Council of Governments is made up of mayors and other elected officials from around Weber County.

Rhonda Lauritzen, of Hooper, wrote the release, tapping into the feedback provided by the 250 or so people who signed the Weber County petition.

“This project area cedes local control and budget authority to a state-appointed board. Various groups across the political spectrum are calling on Weber County to study the full impact, including the budget burden to local taxpayers, attracting heavy truck traffic to an area that does not have it now, bright lighting, destruction of wetlands, inestimable noise and attracting sources of air pollution,” reads the statement.

The project area sits near the Great Salt Lake and the Harold Crane and Ogden Bay waterfowl management areas. The critics worry the environmental areas and western Weber County, in general, could be harmed by the proposed industrial development, exhaust from truck traffic serving the development and more.

In response to worries about potential wetlands impacts, inland port officials have put together a draft plan to safeguard the marshy areas of the project area. The proposed guidelines and restrictions allow for more wetlands protections than by letting development occur outside inland port parameters, says Ben Hart, executive director of the Utah Inland Port Authority.

The state is driving the inland port initiative — so far entailing industrial, warehousing and other development at eight sites across Utah in cooperation with private developers — as a means of spurring the economy. The aim also is to encourage increased rail traffic for the transport of goods, thereby reducing trucks on the state’s highways. The Weber County site would be the ninth inland port location.



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