John Daley reportingIf it was a movie, you could call it, "Legacy Highway, the Sequel.” It's the latest turn in the legal squabble started last fall, when a federal appeals court put a screeching halt to the 14-mile, four-lane road in Davis County saying federal agencies did not comply with federal environmental laws.
The court sent road builders back to the drawing board. The new process officially begins tonight.
By going back to the drawing board, the federal agencies overseeing this process have to once again hold public hearings. And tonight, the first of those so-called "scoping meetings" takes place at Woods Cross High.
Looking at the big picture, the fight over Legacy Highway has been about wetlands and the future of the Great Salt Lake ecosystem. It’s been about sprawl and the projected major population growth and how to best prepare for that.
But the heart of the fight over the road regards what exactly the law says. Since the start, Legacy Highway opponents felt their views and federal law were being ignored.
Last fall, the federal appeals court agreed with them saying there were several important things the lead agencies, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Federal Highway Administration failed to look at.
This time around officials with those agencies say they want to take a fresh look at the road with no bias toward any one solution.
Col. Michael Conrad/Army Corps of Engineers "WE'RE AT THE VERY BEGINNING OF THIS PROCESS AND THE PROCESS IS GOING TO DETERMINE WHAT OUR DECISIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS ARE GOING TO BE. AND SO WE'RE STILL NOW WANT THAT INFORMATION AND BASED ON THAT INFORMATION, WE'LL RECEIVE THE DECISION. NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND. WE'RE NOT GOING TO MAKE A DECISION AND THEN LOOK FOR INFORMATION TO BACK THAT UP."
David Gibbs/Federal Highway Administration "WE CAN'T PREJUDGE. THE KEY IS GOING TO BE THE FACTS IN THE STUDY. AND I THINK THE INFORMATION CONTAINED IN THE STUDY IS GOING TO DRIVE THOSE DECISIONS."
The court asked the agencies to fix five deficiencies in the original environmental study. Those include looking at the Denver and Rio Grande alignment as an alternative and considering mass transit. Also, they’ll look at the sequence of investing in transit along with expanding I-15 and building Legacy. The judges also wanted them look at the impact on wildlife and the impact of building a narrower road.
Marc Heileson/Sierra Club "WE'RE EXCITED BECAUSE WE SEE THIS AS AN OPPORTUNITY TO HAVE THE PROCESS DONE RIGHT. INSTEAD OF THE GOVERNOR SAYING THIS IS WHERE OUR ROAD IS GOING TO BE BUILT AND THE STUDIES BEGIN FROM THERE. WE SEE THIS AS AN OPPORTUNITY TO START FROM SCRATCH AND GET A LOOK AT A WIDE RANGES OF OPTIONS AND MORE IMPORTANTLY THE SEQUENCES OF WHAT WE BUILD AND WHEN."
The meeting tonight continues until 8:00 PM. It’s at Woods Cross High School Auditorium. The address is 600 West 2200 South in Woods Cross.
If you want to share your thoughts on Legacy Highway, this is your chance.