Summer flew by too fast! It's hard to believe school is back in session.
I wanted to highlight a few important and impactful issues which have received media attention, and more importantly, generated a lot of concerns from constituents.
Although I opposed the prison relocation, I want to acknowledge the work of the Prison Relocation Commission (PRC), as well as legislative researchers, attorneys and staff for all of their time and effort. I also greatly respect the information provided by Corrections Director Rollin Cook.
The decision to relocate the prison was made by the legislature during the 2014 legislative session, before I was elected. Therefore, the decision before the legislature in the Special Session was limited to accepting the PRC's recommendation of the Salt Lake City site, west of the SL International Airport vs. the other three locations - Grantsville City (Tooele County), Eagle Mountain City (Utah County) and Town of Fairfield (Utah County).
I supported efforts to rebuild the prison. I ultimately voted against the Salt Lake location because:
- Salt Lake City elected officials and leaders adamantly opposed this site;
- Many in the ethnic community who live close to this site expressed to me their heartfelt and strong opposition;
- Siting issues, many of which are set forth in the PRC's Utah State Correctional Facility Siting Program Comparative Site Evaluation Matrix, dated August 11, 2015, including:
- Collapsible soil and the need to address the serious issue of liquefaction ("Potential for liquefaction throughout region");
- Proximity to major faults/seismic risk zone - Approximately 1 mile from the Granger Fault and 6 miles from the Wasatch Fault (high risk zone);
- Flood hazard potential;
- Wetland/Waters of the U.S. present
- Known Special Status Species Habitats - long-billed curlews and burrowing owls, as well as potential for Special Status Species Habitats;
Known waste contamination due to a former landfill on the site (conditions unknown) and the area is associated with past military activities;
- Known cultural resources;
Mosquitos and other insect pests prevalent throughout area (estimated annual treatment cost, $160,000);
Hefty initial costs, although it has been stated that operational costs will be lower in the long term;
- Many unknowns, i.e. "pending further investigation".
Constituents spoke loudly that the issue of relocation should be re-visited, and strongly supported the prison being rebuilt in Draper. Many expressed that criminal justice reforms, including Medicaid Expansion, should be in place before building a facility to fit those reforms. Constituents were not opposed just because Salt Lake was the preferred site, but they had concerns, many of which are listed above.
There are some very important benefits of the
Salt Lake location including accessibility by
current employee base, the volunteers and
visitors; and relative proximity to the Utah Department of Corrections Headquarters in Draper, the University of Utah Hospital and the courts. There is also a potential for the prison to spur additional economic development.
However, my vote was based on constituent voices and my concerns about the site and relocation (not a new prison).
Our Precious Water
A great deal of time in our Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Interim Committee has focused on water issues. We had site visits to learn about different agricultural irrigation systems in southern Cache Valley, the extraordinary work at Utah State University and their Water Research Lab, and various issues impacting beautiful Bear Lake, including efforts to prevent contamination by Quagga Mussels, and Lake/Beach Access. I respect the work of our Department of Natural Resources.
Our state is faced with the costly reality of aging water infrastructure while facing the dilemma of providing water to a population which will double by 2050 (from 2,900,000 now to 5,400,000 people). My time as a past member of the Central Utah Water Conservancy District (appointed by past Governor Jon Huntsman, Jr. and re-appointed by Governor Gary Herbert) and the Salt Lake Public Utilities Advisory Committee has given me some foundational knowledge on water issues.
A recent audit of projections of Utah's water needs has provided recommendations to be considered, i.e. conversion of agriculture water use, etc. Are projects like the Bear River Pipeline and the Lake Powell Pipeline necessary? Last session I opposed these efforts. However, these issues will continue to be studied and debated. Last week I was appointed to the State Water Development Committee. Water issues are complex and political. I appreciate every opportunity to learn more and hear from all sides regarding these important issues. What are your thoughts?
Water is a scarce resource. We live in the second driest state in the Nation. Our population is projected to double by 2050. Utah's per capita residential water use is second highest in the Nation. Our visit to Utah State University opened my eyes to the reality of lower levels of water and the future we face. We were able to see a scaled version of a water pump (see photo) designed as a prototype for a new pump at Lake Mead. Lake Mead is at a record low. The present pumps are now above the high water mark. Therefore, a new pump will be constructed to be placed lower to access the remaining water - 34 pumps (with 10 pumps more scheduled for a second stage), each
pump being 6 feet in diameter - to pump 1.2 billion gallons per day to Las Vegas.
Water laws are based upon "use it or lose it". For example, "[I]f we don't build these pipelines, our allocation of the Colorado River may be taken from us".
In June, I attended my friend's dad's funeral - Dee LaMar Holladay. He was a member of the River Runners Hall of Fame. In 1966, he founded Holiday River Expeditions. His love for the wild and rivers was palpable. I learned that guides, past and present, loved and respected him and that their time in life with him was often a seminal moment, a turning point in their lives. He had a commitment to the preservation of rivers and educated countless individuals to love and respect the rivers.
I hope we as policymakers make the proper decisions about our precious water. Our lives depend on it.