Six counties in eastern Utah have formed a coalition to plan and build infrastructure projects such as roads and rail lines. The Grand County Council will decide this afternoon whether to join the group.
Grand County is the last to consider joining what’s called the Seven County Infrastructure Coalition. It was formed earlier this year and already includes Daggett, Uintah, Duchesne, Carbon, Emery and San Juan counties.
The coalition plans to look at a proposed highway through the Book Cliffs along with a number of other projects. Lynn Jackson chairs the seven-member Grand County Council. He says joining with the other jurisdictions could provide real economic benefits.
“One of the goals of this coalition, which I think has been lost in some of the discussions," Jackson tells KUER, "is that it’s for the counties, this coalition, if you will, to build some of this infrastructure and actually have an ownership stake in that, so that we can see additional revenues to our counties.”
The coalition has already asked the state’s Community Impact Board for five million dollars to study new infrastructure projects. Chris Baird, a former council member who opposes joining the coalition, believes spending that money wouldn’t do much for Grand County.
Baird says, “It would likely go for the operations of the coalition itself and be put toward the two big projects that they’ve identified, which would be a rail line from Uintah down Indian Canyon to the I-70 rail corridor and also a pipeline.”
The proposal was discussed at a contentious council meeting two weeks ago with opponents arguing the coalition will only promote the development of carbon-based energy at the expense of Grand County’s tourism-based economy. A vote on the issue was put off until today.