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HomeLocal NewsUtahWestern Weber County wetlands focus of protection plan as inland port proposal...

Western Weber County wetlands focus of protection plan as inland port proposal moves forward

OGDEN — Utah Inland Port Authority officials have crafted guidelines meant specifically to safeguard the wetlands of western Weber County as plans for an expansive industrial development zone in the area move forward.

The plans have prompted environmental concerns in Weber County and across Utah, and inland port officials last week unveiled the draft strategy as a vote on whether to move forward with the western Weber County initiative looms. The proposed Weber County Inland Port project — entailing industrial development adjacent to the west 12th Street corridor and a Union Pacific rail line — covers an expanse of 8,785 largely undeveloped acres near the Great Salt Lake and the Harold Crane and Ogden Bay waterfowl management areas.

Environmentalists have clamored against the Weber County plans and other inland port projects. They worry development brought on by the Weber County project could harm the wetlands in the project zone and the Great Salt Lake ecosystem. Nonetheless, Ben Hart, the Utah Inland Port Authority executive director, said Monday that the area would be better protected by allowing development under the inland port schematic, with the proposed wetland strategy, than by letting development occur outside inland port parameters.

“We’re very confident about that,” he said. The West Weber inland port project is focus of a public question-and-answer session set for Thursday in Ogden. The Utah Inland Port Authority Board is scheduled to act on whether to formally move forward with the Weber County plans at a meeting on May 20 in Salt Lake City.

Inland port officials have created broad guidelines governing inland port development in wetland areas. Given the particular environmental sensitivity of the Weber County project area, Hart said, they created the new guidelines specific to Weber County.

“The port will not support development or construction that would result in the destruction of wetlands. The port has, and will, coordinate with landowners that own property with identified, existing or potential wetlands and ensure they are completing required due diligence,” reads the draft plan.

More specifically, Hart said developers would not be able to tap into tax benefits available under the inland port scheme unless they agree to protect wetland areas inside their land portfolios, as determined by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The plan also calls for creation of buffer zones around certain “sensitive areas” where inland port development could not occur.

The broader wetland guidelines call for 1% of all tax-increment funding in inland port areas to be set aside for wetland protection efforts. Under the plans specific to Weber County, 3% of tax-increment money generated in the project area would be set aside, which Hart said could generate $10 million to $11 million over 20 to 25 years.

“The port does not have regulatory authority over the land use of this project area but can decide how to direct its funds and will not direct funds in a manner that promotes or finances the destruction of wetlands. The port wants to ensure that development never takes precedent over the ecologically sensitive lands in this area,” reads the draft plan for Weber County.

Thursday’s question-and-answer session starts at 6 p.m. and will be held at the Weber Center, where many county offices are housed, at 2380 Washington Blvd. in Ogden. The May 20 Utah Inland Port Authority Board meeting is to start at 1 p.m. and will be held in room 445 of the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City.

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