Massive inland port project targets western Weber County, concerning residents, environmental groups

May 20, 2024, 6:08 PM | Updated: 6:56 pm

WEST WEBER, Weber County — A 9,000-acre area in Weber County is being considered as the possible destination for a massive inland port. The Utah Inland Port Authority said it will have control over nearby wetlands, but some nearby homeowners and environmental groups say the project shouldn’t be happening at all.

The Utah Port Authority voted Monday to move forward with the early stages of the project’s plans. But adversary groups said they’re concerned about pollution and the possible threat to nearby wetlands and wildlife management areas. They believe the process may be moving too quickly.

“We have a small town quality of life. I value the wildlife. The skies are incredibly clear at night,” said Rhonda Lauritzen, a nearby homeowner.

The authority was previously audited and called to update its policy in 2022 due to a lack of “transparency and accountability.” At the time, it committed to correcting the concerns highlighted in an “expeditious manner.”

Still, protestors at the authority’s vote on Monday arrived with signs speaking against developers.

“For some Weber County residents, there will be no prevention and there will be no cure if the port is built,” said Dr. Courtney Henley, with Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment.

The Utah Inland Port Authority pointed out that the area is already zoned for commercial use, meaning it can’t stop the development. It said it can, however, have a role in shaping it.

“We need well-planned industrial areas. We need job centers. But we also need to protect the wetlands and the sensitive lands up in this area as well,” said the port authority’s Executive Director Ben Hart. “So we feel like we can create balance in this area is strategic for that growth.”

Part of the 9,000-acre area that was selected to serve as a possible inland port. (KSL TV)

The port authority’s plan proposes a minimum of 600-foot buggers for protected wetlands. It aims to target industries like aerospace, defense, and biotech that it said won’t be major polluters.

“We feel like we can strike the right balance for development here,” Hart said.

The people who will be the port’s neighbors, however, are worried they’re not getting a say.

“Pause long enough so we can have a real public process,” Lauritzen said.

The project is still a long way from groundbreaking, estimated at five years. If it continues as planned, the estimate for completion is 20 to 30 years total.

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Massive inland port project targets western Weber County, concerning residents, environmental groups