San Juan gets pushback on Spanish Valley asphalt plant

Grand gets an earful – for different reasons

A fire sign near Ken’s Lake shows high danger on a hot, summer, August day. An effort to pave the road to Ken’s Lake has recently met pushback. Photo by Carter Pape

The licensure of an aggregate and hot mix asphalt plant in Spanish Valley off Highway 191 on a gravel road that leads to Ken’s Lake was the topic of significant discussion at the Nov. 5 meeting of the San Juan County Commission. Commissioners felt pressured to act as they faced a Nov. 8 deadline for public comment on the licensure decision by the Utah Department of Environmental Quality.

In the end, commissioners did not act on a proposed resolution that would have opposed the licensure. For many years, Spanish Valley has been the location of gravel, asphalt and concrete operations for construction projects in San Juan and Grand counties. In addition, Spanish Valley is also experiencing significant development pressure. Public comment in favor of the proposed resolution to block the plant was given by a number of Spanish Valley residents. They expressed concerns about the health impacts if the plant was licensed and that the licensure, if approved, would simply be renewed in perpetuity. Public comments from those in support of the plant focused on the impact of its closure on construction projects throughout southeast Utah.

Ben Musselman said the pits are essential to all aspects of construction in the greater San Juan and Grand county areas. Speaking for the regional director of the Utah Department of Transportation, Musselman said that UDOT would like the commission to support rather than oppose the existing asphalt pit. Scott Flannery, a civil engineer in the county, said if the county opposes the pit, “We are shooting ourselves in the foot. This will increase the cost of projects.”

Ryan Holyoak, who has permits for an adjacent plant, said, “I see the future, and the future is not good if you oppose this. There will be a lot of pain and suffering for this county if you set this precedent.”

Doug Allen expressed concerns about anti-business policies. “We are facing increased property taxes by those who pay, and you are taking away businesses that will pay property tax and increase that tax base,” said Allen. The San Juan County Planning Commission is working on a series of ordinances that would help govern the development of the area. The plans may be considered at the next commission meeting.

Meanwhile in Grand County, a handful of residents used the citizens to be heard agenda item at the council’s Nov. 6 meeting to oppose the plant and to request that Grand County send a letter to the Utah Department of Environmental Quality’s air quality division.

Kiley Miller complained of illness due to air pollution from the plant. Kevin Walker noted that the company already crushes about 500,000 tons of rock a year for its gravel operations, and he and Sue Thomas decried the chemicals they believe the plant would put into the atmosphere.

It was also alleged that there is scrubbing technology available that could reduce emissions, but the company won’t go to the expense of doing so and Utah regulators have determined that additional controls are not necessary.

In addition to requesting the council to send a letter to the Division of Air Quality, Walker encouraged members to continue their efforts in working together with the San Juan County Commission, particularly on issues related to Spanish Valley, which straddles the county line.