BY MELINDA WILLIAMS
Clipper Staff Writer
FARMINGTON - After three-plus years of studying proposed routes for the West Davis Corridor, the Utah Department of Transportation is postponing release of the final Environmental Impact Statement until the summer of 2014.
The action is in response to an overwhelming number of comments on the route, including scathing comments from area environmentalists opposed to the road, and from federal agencies who weighed in on the road’s proximity to the Farmington Bay Bird Refuge.
“Our greatest concern with this project regards the indirect impacts to the wetlands and upland wildlife habitats of the Great Salt Lake shore lands,” wrote Robert F. Stewart, regional environmental officer of the U.S. Department of the Interior, in a letter sent to UDOT the first week of September.
Stewart’s concern focused on the fact the Great Salt Lake is part of the Western Hemispheric Shorebird Reserve Network, a distinction afforded to only seven areas of the lower 48 states.
His letter was followed by comments from the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that each agreed with Stewart’s assessment of the wetlands.
In extending the Final EIS, UDOT said it wanted more time to thoroughly study the comments it received, and look at other alternatives.
“We want to ensure we have enough time to address and explore the new alternatives that were proposed (during a public comment period),” said UDOT spokesman John Gleason.
The EIS initially was to be released at the end of this year.
The study team is currently responding to each comment made and that is time consuming.
“We owe it to ourselves and interested parties to spend time to study the comments,” Gleason said, adding “This is still very much an active process. No final decision has been made, all options, all alternatives are still on the table.”
In May, UDOT announced its locally-preferred alternative was the Glovers Lane option, that routed the road from Glovers Lane in Farmington to 4100 West in Clinton.
That route, as now proposed, would take 26 homes and five businesses and would impact more than 100 acres of farmland.
That decision angered environmentalists, concerned not only with the Farmington Bay Bird Refuge, but with the building of a road they believe is not needed.
Instead, a coalition of environmental groups is touting a Shared Solution that focuses on better use of mass transportation and arterial roadways, as well as options such as telecommuting and flex-scheduling in the workplace.
In his letter to UDOT, Stewart said, “We encourage UDOT to fully vet this alternative (the Shared Solution) as it did with all 23 alternatives, and to provide its agency resources to fully develop and assess its details.”
The Shared Solution is one of the alternatives that UDOT is now taking a second look at.
It’s been a long road for UDOT, as public comment has led the agency to extend the public comment period twice because of the volume of comments it received. Since June, UDOT has received 1,600 comments.
Because the date for release of the final EIS has been postponed, the Record of Decision is not expected until the end of 2014.