Supporters say Utah’s inland port will be an economic boost, critics say it’s taxpayer-funded pollution

SALT LAKE CITY -- Depending on who you talk to, a proposed inland port project in Utah will be an economic boon or an environmental disaster.

Reacting to a FOX 13 report highlighting a working inland port in Kansas that could be similar to what is being planned for Salt Lake City, House Majority Leader Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, said he believed a well-planned port could provide good paying jobs and increase exports from Utah.

"What we envision is being able to take things that are produced and grown here in the state of Utah and filling those containers and shipping them back out," he said.

But Deeda Seed with the Center for Biological Diversity questioned any benefits Utah would see from an inland port. She argued that unlike any tax breaks Edgerton, Kansas, residents got from the port -- Salt Lake City would not see the same return and get increased air pollution.

"It's a recipe for disaster. We're really going to be paying for pollution. Us. The taxpayer," she said. "It's appalling to me."

Seed said more semis would fill the roads in an area already plagued by air pollution problems.

"I think there's a reasonable public policy question, which is why would we want to do a project like this that's going to divert our tax resources in a direction that's going to further harm our quality of life and make our roads even worse?" she told FOX 13. "Because thousands of trucks do not make our roads better."

With concerns about wetlands, migratory birds, the Great Salt Lake and pollution, the Center for Biological Diversity has said it is not ruling out litigation should the inland port come to pass. Seed and others are pushing to block development of any inland port in Salt Lake City.

But Rep. Gibson said he believed what is envisioned for the inland port could mitigate environmental concerns. He said the Utah State Legislature allowed for the creation of a "hub and spoke" port, spreading resources around the state so everything isn't trucked into Salt Lake City.

"We created a hub and spoke model that allowed an inland port to have satellite facilities around the state to minimize traffic and congestion in the Salt Lake Valley," he said.

Gibson insisted an inland port will be built and urged opponents to work with them on what it could be.

"To our detractors, I'm saying we're open. We have work groups, we're meeting continually. How can we make this the best port we can be?" he said. "To the distractors that just do not want the port at all, I say that's not going to happen. We're going to have it. But let's work together."

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