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Rio Tinto Kennecott asked to place land it owns near the Inland Port in a permanent conservation easement

Posted at 1:36 PM, Aug 26, 2020

SALT LAKE CITY — Nearly 30 civic groups have come together, calling on Rio Tinto Kennecott to protect a portion of its land, currently committed to the inland port, instead of developing it.

The Utah Inland Port Authority Board approved the business plan for the inland port, a freight warehousing and transfer facility to be built in Salt Lake City’s North West quadrant, in June.

The port would cover over 16-thousand acres, of which Rio Tinto Kennecott owns about 16-hundred acres.

Opponents have long voiced discontent with the plan, saying it will cause environmental harm, bringing in tens of thousands of commercial trucks, making even more trips on a daily basis.

But proponents believe the port will bring economic benefits, high paying jobs and rural economic development.

Wednesday, nearly 30 civic groups submitted a letter to Rio Tinto Kennecott’s CEO, urging him to turn the land they own within the northwest quadrant into a permanent conservation easement.

The letter starts:

As residents, and civic groups, of the Salt Lake Valley concerned for the health of all residents, we request that Rio Tinto Kennecott place its extensive land holdings in Salt Lake City’s Northwest Quadrant into a permanent conservation easement. Preserving this land would enhance the Kennecott Inland Sea Shorebird Reserve and demonstrate a commitment to public health and environmental sustainability.

You currently plan to allow development of this land as part of an inland port. By protecting this area from development, Rio Tinto Kennecott would safeguard our valley from 70,000 additional daily commercial truck trips and 150,000 additional daily private car trips which our modeling suggests would be generated at full build out. Damage to water quality and important wildlife habitat is almost inevitable.

Read the full letter here

The letter was presented by the groups during a Zoom conference Wednesday morning.

“They are property owners and the decision they make will impact whether we have a polluted valley and destroyed bird habitat or not,” said Deeda Seed with the Center for Biological Diversity.

A spokesperson with Kennecott sent a statement to FOX 13 in response:

“The State of Utah has established a clear vision through legislation for this land as part of the Inland Port site, aimed at delivering sustainable economic benefits. State leaders have established the Utah Inland Port Authority to gain public input throughout the project.”

“While we are not acting as a developer in this project, Kennecott will continue to actively engage with the Utah Inland Port Authority, potential purchasers of our property, and community members to encourage sustainable development, environmental protections and positive conservation outcomes.”

More than 600-community members have signed a petition to stop the port from being built.