The third quarter meeting of the Moab Tailings Project Steering Committee was held during a time of transition. The Tuesday, July 31 meeting was the last official day for Lee Shenton, who served as the community liaison for the Moab Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action project since its beginning in 2009. He will be replaced by Russ von Koch, someone with a strong connection to the project from his position as the chair of the Site Futures Committee, which is developing ideas for how to use the area once the project is completed. The community liaison is tasked with communicating information to the public and acting as a conduit between project leaders, elected officials and stakeholders.
Von Koch presented an update on the ideas being considered for the area after the tailings are moved. He emphasized the ideas are conceptual, not a plan, and should be treated as a guide for future planning. Public input is an essential part of the process he said, describing how community support is highest for trails, a park, an event center, an orientation plaza and a welcome center. Support for commercial uses, federal agency offices and an ice rink has declined since 2013 when the initial community vision was created, von Koch noted. He presented an updated map showing how all those uses could fit on the site. In addition to the uses highlighted by the community, the area dubbed Prospector Community Park would feature an inland beach, a reflection pool/ice rink, concessions and a skating pavilion. Across the Moab Canyon Wash there would be room for what is tentatively being called the River Bend Plaza. That area could have a community performance and convention center, an artist’s village, a food court and a Colorado River viewpoint.
Those plans still have a long time before coming to fruition. According to a project update provided by Russell McCallister, the Department of Energy federal clean-up director, about 58 percent of the tailings have been removed. The tailings will not be completely removed until the early- to mid-2030s. Then, there will have to be years of site remediation and testing to ensure the area is safe for public use.
At the end of the meeting, Shenton told the committee, “I really appreciate having worked with all of you… I can tell you that my corporate career was satisfying, but I would use the word gratifying for the work of the liaison in this community… thank you very much.”