Cars pass through Parleys Canyon on I-80 on Monday. There is a plan for mining in the area. (Mark Wetzel, KSL-TV)
Estimated reading time: 6-7 minutes
MILLCREEK – A plan to extract rock and other materials at Parleys Canyon has raised concerns and questions from residents and even officials in the Utah capital, who say they are disconnected from the project.
Tree Farm LLC, a Salt Lake City-based company, submitted a notice of intent to the Utah Oil, Gas and Mining Division for a mining operation in the canyon earlier this month. The company first filed a claim on Nov. 12 and then clarified the division’s questions last week.
The total size of the proposed mine, called Silver Mine, would be around 20 acres of land north of Grandeur Peak and west of Mount Aire in Parleys Canyon, according to several documents filed by the company. Tree Farm LLC owns nearly 640 acres of land in the canyon, including the site of the proposed mine. Crews would mine rock, sand, gravel, limestone, cement and precious metals, depending on the division.
The land owned by Tree Farm is surrounded by a mixture of private and public land. According to the documents, the company alerted its neighbors, including the US Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, of the intention to operate.
However, the plan received backlash as details came to light. Joel Wyner, who lives near Mount Aire and not far from the proposed mine, says he’s bothered by the idea of heavy equipment rolling around in areas near his home and other homes in the area. This is on top of the other issues he has with the plan.
“This will create explosions of dynamite, which will affect our watershed,” he added. “We use springs to meet our needs and we protect them very well. It’s going to damage it. Wildlife is going to be badly affected (by) this.”
Necia Emery, a Salt Lake Valley resident, says she crosses the canyon almost every day, including on her way to work in Park City. As a commuter, she worries about what trucks entering and exiting the mine would mean for traffic and roads that are already struggling with congestion.
But as a resident of the valley, she also thinks about what mining can mean for water and air quality, as well as the many creatures – protected and unprotected – that inhabit the canyon. . The land where the mine is located is not upstream of the Salt Lake Valley water supply, but is located between a pair of reservoirs in the area and the valley, with the water flowing into Salt Lake City. . The canyon is important for all kinds of wildlife.
“I’m concerned about my water in Salt Lake and very concerned about my water here, as well as the wildlife… It’s damaging the air, the traffic, the community,” she said.
Laura Briefer, director of the Salt Lake City Department of Utilities, told KSL.com on Monday that her department is still reviewing the proposal, which is over 300 pages long. Since the water is treated upstream, this is probably not a risk to the city’s drinking water.
But there are other potential water issues, including the impact it could have on Parleys Creek and what it could mean for associated recreation and wildlife. There are also stormwater drainage requirements in Salt Lake City for the creek as it flows downstream. She says the document says there will be mitigation efforts, but it’s unclear what those will be.
Another question arises as to who owns the water used for mining operations. Salt Lake City holds the rights to the water upstream and in the region, and Briefer said the document did not clarify how the mine would get the water it needed and how it planned to use it for its operations. The proposal says the water would be used to help reduce dust particles flying around, but she said it was also not clear where that water would come from.
“The fear we would have of the potential deterioration of the city’s water rights within this system,” she said. “We do not serve water in this area and neither have they approached us to be a water supplier. We just have questions about where the water resources are coming from to support the project and if this would have an impact. ( on the city.”
Briefer also shares many of the concerns raised by residents of the area, such as pollution and impacts on air quality. An online petition against the mine project was launched on Sunday and garnered nearly 2,500 signatures as of 7 p.m. Monday. He adds that there was no “public input” to the process, in addition to the many concerns voiced by residents like Wyner and Emery.
Tree Farm owner Jesse Lassley spoke briefly to KSL-TV by phone. He said the document describes mitigation plans to address environmental concerns, including a retention pond to filter sediment and good maintenance measures to prevent chemical seepage. The mine would also be hidden from the highway and there will be plans to help avoid disturbance to wildlife.
As to why the proposal did not include public comment, a spokesperson for the Utah Oil, Gas and Mines Division told KSL.com in a statement that since the proposal is considered small, at 20 acres on unincorporated land, the state administrative code says the division “must approve a small mine (notice of intent) as long as the operator has met all of the requirements listed in the rule, including the submission of complete operations, (a) the reclamation plan and the posting of an adequate bond.
“According to Utah’s administrative code, there is no public comment period associated with small mine NOIs,” the statement continued. “However, the division accepts comments from the public at any time regarding questions and / or concerns.”
While the small mine does not require public comment, local officials and residents are concerned the small mine is only just beginning in Parleys Canyon. The plan says future operations are planned for other parts of the mine in the future, totaling most of the acres owned by the company.
Briefer said the city’s utilities don’t often handle mining operations, which is why the department has been caught off guard. Since the department does most of its work with federal agencies, it is used to a public notification process before a project is carried out by them or others. Although this example is on private land, she says it is close enough to the public interest that it would have benefited the community if there had been a warning beforehand.
“There could be something more to add to a public process, especially as our state continues to grow and we have a lot of people in the area, the interface of the urban area and the water resources are narrow. “she said. “Having an additional public process for a project of this size – especially the future large phase – I think this would be very helpful in identifying the issues, how they will be mitigated and whether the applicant has done a good job in terms of identification of these problems.
As for submitting public comments, the Utah Oil, Gas and Mining Division said emails regarding any oil, gas or mining project can be sent to [email protected]
Contributing: Mike Anderson