Utah Inland Port Authority mulling 10th inland port site in Carbon, Emery counties

The image shows part of the Castle Country Project Area, in green and orange, near Green River in Emery County in southern Utah. The proposal is the 10th development plan put forward by the Utah Inland Port Authority.

The image shows part of the Castle Country Project Area, in green and orange, near Green River in Emery County in southern Utah. The proposal is the 10th development plan put forward by the Utah Inland Port Authority. (Utah Inland Port Authority)

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Inland Port Authority officials, who approved creation of an inland port location in Weber County on Monday, are now considering the creation of yet another site — this one in Carbon and Emery counties in eastern and central Utah.

The port authority board heard preliminary details of the proposal — meant to spur the local economy and counter the hit brought on by the decline in coal production — at a meeting on Monday in Salt Lake City. But they have yet to act on it. Nevertheless, it seems to have broad support among leaders in the two counties.

"We need to find some other types of industries," Carbon County Commissioner Larry Jensen, a backer, told the board. However, he said, the county needs help developing infrastructure to aid relocating businesses.

Shanny Wilson, the Carbon County economic development director, echoed that, saying businesses have expressed interest in locating in the area. "They just need a little bit of help getting started," she said, and the inland port proposal could provide the boost.

The Utah Inland Port Authority, a quasi-governmental entity, aids with creation of development sites around the state, called inland ports, with the goal of spurring economic development and creating jobs.

On Monday, the port authority board approved creation of an inland port area in western Weber County, the ninth in the state, despite fierce opposition from some worried about its potential environmental impact. The proposal in Carbon and Emery counties — the Castle Country Project Area — would become the 10th.

"In spite of declining coal traffic, the Carbon-Emery economic region continues to be an epicenter of rail traffic in the state of Utah. The Castle Country Project Area seeks to make use of existing mainline track and industrial leads to attract advanced manufacturing as well as coal alternatives such as carbon fiber and coke," reads the draft proposal formulated by Utah Inland Port Authority officials. Promoting rail transit and keeping trucks off Utah roads is another central goal of the Utah Inland Port Authority.

The Castle Country inland port area covers 2,185 acres on six noncontiguous sites in Carbon and Emery counties, which abut each other. Much of the total area, 1,817 acres, is on two sites in and around Green River in Emery County.

The inland port formula calls for use of tax-increment financing — property tax revenue generated by growth brought on by inland port development — to help bolster infrastructure in project areas. The draft plan, likely the focus of future consideration by the Utah Inland Port Authority Board, estimates the Castle Country area would generate some $11 million in tax-increment funds over 25 years.

Beyond money, inland port officials help create and pursue a vision to guide and spur development. The plan presented Monday identifies potential economic development opportunities in carbon fiber, electronics, alternative energy and other industries. It also cites potential for warehousing operations in Green River given its location on I-70 and other business development.

The tax-increment funding in combination with the expertise of inland port officials, said Green River City Manager Tyler Hunt, can help turn Green River into a "production haven," diversifying its economy.

The decline in the coal industry, key in the area, has hit the local economy. The inland port authority report, though, sees opportunity in the area.

"The region currently has over 270,000 acres of development ready land with pockets along Ridge Road in Carbon County and the U.S. 6 (and) I-70 interchange in Green River complete with shovel ready development sites," reads the draft Utah Inland Port Authority report.

The Emery and Carbon county commissions and the Green River City Council each passed resolutions expressing support for the inland port proposal. Even so, inland port projects have generated fierce opposition elsewhere, notably in Salt Lake County, site of the first inland port project area, and Weber County, site of the plan approved Monday.

Critics of the Weber County plans fear development in the project area could harm the nearby Great Salt Lake and the wetlands where it is located. They also worry about pollution and increased truck traffic. The Weber County project area, where inland port boosters envision increased manufacturing development, covers nearly 9,000 acres in the western reaches of the county.

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Utah Inland PortBusinessUtahPoliticsEastern UtahCentral Utah
Tim Vandenack covers immigration, multicultural issues and Northern Utah for KSL.com. He worked several years for the Standard-Examiner in Ogden and has lived and reported in Mexico, Chile and along the U.S.-Mexico border.


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