Trucks move shipping containers at the Union Pacific Intermodal Terminal on Nov. 22, 2021 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

Utah simply cannot catch a break from environmental injustice. Without fail, it seems, plans for development prevail as the Great Salt Lake is further threatened. 


The Utah Inland Port is a plan to create a loading facility adjacent to Salt Lake Union Pacific Railroad. The purpose is to alleviate strain on the Long Beach and Los Angeles ports by creating a trans-loading facility to reload marine containers to trailers for redistribution. The Inland Port Authority claims that this project will “bring jobs and companies” to the surrounding area further growing the economy. The Inland Port Authority Executive Director, Ben Hart, is also optimistic that the inland port will clear up road congestion as well as our air. The question is, how is this in practice?


In a piece written for the Salt Lake Tribune, Leia Larsen states that “the Intermountain West” simply “isn’t a big enough market to attract business from major importers.” The first Utah inland port scheme collapsed in April of 2023 resulting in taxpayers paying large renting fees on vacant lots. The state of California is preparing to purchase four inland ports also to alleviate stress on its seaports. These Californian ports would only be 100 miles inland as opposed to almost 700 miles. 


Furthermore, while the Inland Port brings work, it does not bring the work needed when we are at a 2.8% unemployment rate. The work would be “low paying warehouse fulfillment jobs with no benefits.” There is a smattering of negative side-effects associated such as noise and light pollution, increased water consumption, and negative effects on the Great Salt Lake. 


The Utah Inland Port will amputate almost 50,000 acres of both Utah Lake and Great Salt Lake, turning wetlands into asphalt. Deeda Seed, a Public Lands Senior Campaigner, states that even though nothing will be built on these wetlands there is still “obvious harm to the ecosystem.” She continues that by paving over with concrete, “you’re disrupting everything…depleting water resources and bringing polluting trucks in and out.”


Wetlands are a crucial part of our lives because they suppress dust, clean the air, and filter water. They provide the natural world with feeding and nesting habitats. Sadly, already about one-third of the Great Salt Lake wetlands have been gobbled up by development. 


Lynn De Freitas, Executive Director of FRIENDS of Salt Lake, remarks that “It’s like this runaway train that’s just going, and doing, and claiming, without any accountability that comes.”

Because of the potential impact that these inland ports can have on wetlands and air pollution around Great Salt Lake and throughout Utah, a group of environmental organizations have created a coalition called Stop the Polluting Port to stop the development of more inland ports. As part of this effort, they have a petition for citizens to sign in support of protecting the natural spaces under threat of development. You can sign the petition here.