More federal agencies raise concerns about West Davis Corridor proposals

Posted at 7:39 PM, Sep 22, 2013
and last updated 2013-09-22 21:39:33-04

DAVIS COUNTY, Utah -- Two federal agencies have joined the U.S. Department of Interior in expressing concerns over the West Davis Corridor.

The Utah Department of Transportation said the proposed highway will be essential in easing traffic congestion to and from Salt Lake City as Davis County continues to grow.

But the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have both sent letters to UDOT, saying plans for the highway don’t do enough to protect The Great Salt Lake wetlands ecosystem.

UDOT has released eight different potential routes for the West Davis Corridor, all of which follow the edge of the Great Salt Lake to varying degrees.

But the EPA, in its letter, said it has “Environmental Objections” with all eight maps outlined by UDOT in an environmental impact study.

“All alternatives include substantial direct, indirect and cumulative impacts to wetlands and associated ecosystem components,” the EPA wrote.

And the Corps warned, “Our evaluation… will reflect the severity of the potential for significant adverse impacts on this important aquatic ecosystem.”

Recreationists at the Great Salt Lake Nature Center opposed any highway plans that would impact wetlands.

“I don’t like it at all,” said bird watcher Jeff David. “There’s too many roads; and this is for the birds, as they say.”

Farrell Skidmore, another outdoor enthusiast, didn’t like the idea of the West Davis Corridor encroaching on wetlands.

“Maybe choose an alternative method, instead of making more and more highways,” Skidmore said.

Steve Erickson, spokesperson for the Shared Solution Coalition, said his group would like to see UDOT improve local transit in Davis County before building another highway.

“We’re hoping UDOT will take that step back, and give it a good hard look and determine whether or not it’s going to meet the needs of 2040,” Erickson said.

A UDOT spokesperson said the department wouldn’t be able to comment on the EPA and Army Corps letters until Monday.

When the Department of Interior first brought up the ecological concerns at the beginning of September, spokesperson Jeff Gleason said it takes all comments from Interior seriously, and emphasized that the plans released by UDOT were not final, but the ultimate determination would be made the Federal Highway Administration.