Utah Freedom Coalition

Does the Utah Inland Port Equal Total Takeover?

Author- Jim Jensen

We’ll let you decide, but we do ask that you really investigate this topic and consider what is at stake, what is the goal, and what we gain and or lose from it? Weigh those pros and cons seriously.

Many years ago, our Utah elite including Huntsman and Herbert had enough of what they deemed “Utah’s second-class citizenry”. Their vision of Utah included the global stage. They, and others tapped all their globalist connections, pooled their resources, and placed one giant bet that bringing an inland port to Utah would be the key to making Utah like all “important” nations. And thus, they began their focus on the Utah Inland Port. The UIP appears to eliminate Utah’s state sovereignty, illegally bypassing the citizens of Utah, and trashes our environment in one grab.

If, after reading this, you want to stop this egregious effort and save our beautiful state, you can! First, please write and email your state legislator to repeal SB243 and HB243 S2, HB443 and SB234 as these are the most harmful. Demand this be stopped as the PUBLIC has spoken for years against the inland port. Share this information with your family, friends, and neighbors. This is NOT a partisan issue. 

THIS IS AN UPDATE- AS THE BOARD AND DIRECTOR ARE NEW AS OF 2023. WATCH THIS VIDEO FOR MORE INFORMATION. 

What is an inland port?

If you’re like many of us, you probably don’t know much about the Utah Inland Port. There’s probably a reason for that. We’ll discuss that in a minute, but first off let’s go over what it is.

 

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CenterPoint InterModal Center near Chicago

An “inland port” is an extension of a coastal port (or ports). In a nutshell, an inland port serves as a depot to relieve pressure on coastal ports by offering similar unloading, inspection, customs, and other services unique to coastal ports. Inland ports provide a way for coastal ports to scale by distributing the burden of checking in, unloading, and distributing cargo from importers. This is done by taking imports off the boats and sending it directly to the inland port for processing. Hopefully, by the time it gets checked in everything is legit because it’s going to be a lot harder to send it back from the desert.

There are currently 9 inland ports in the United States. A few in Canada and one in Mexico. So, this is not a novel idea. We took the time to look up the other ports on Google Earth. In most cases, the port couldn’t be distinguished from the surrounding business development in a satellite image. With one extremely large exception: The CenterPoint Intermodal Center near Chicago.

Will Utah’s inland port be like the others that complement the surrounding landscape? Or will it be modeled more after the city-sized port in Chicago? You can bet your fry sauce it will. The “leading trade and logistics hub,” as their business plan self-identifies, won’t be blending in with the brine shrimp. The map below shows the land they currently have marked off for Utah’s port (including 400 acres of wetlands). It is bigger than Salt Lake City and South Salt Lake combined, and you could probably toss in Magna for good measure.

Current Utah Inland Port Boundaries

Background on the Inland Port

Several years ago, right after Cox and Herbert visited China (coincidence?), the Utah State Legislature established the Utah Inland Port Authority, yet another layer of government to watch over an entirely new area of corruption. When the secret plans were unveiled to gather “public input,” Salt Lake City officials were “taken aback” at the level of detail in the plans. For example, one of the documents floating around was the “Utah Scenarios Comparison: 2050 Outlook.” Plans extending out 30 years existed without the knowledge of the SLC officials.

What does it mean when the elected leaders in charge of managing land and economic growth in a city are shocked to learn about a highly detailed plan to develop and profit from a huge swath of acreage within their city limits?

It means the elite, who are defined by their propensity to underestimate the ability of ‘we the people’ to govern ourselves, feel that they should oversee the plans for the inland port. What do they know about inland ports that they felt compelled to keep that much research and planning a secret?

It appears that their plans have gone largely unnoticed except by a few environmentalists trying to save the dying dirt and mud east of the Great Salt Lake. Worse, it seems like this is just the way they want it.

This project appears to be on an inexorable trajectory. In the 2021 report to the legislature, the Utah Inland Port Authority (UIPA) noted, a transloading/cross docking facility will be built, QuayChain Technologies (a 2018 startup?) has been contracted to build telecommunications infrastructure for the supply chain, and “partners” are lined up to build a hydrogen refueling, electric refueling network.  Side note they are also partnered with 5G Alliance Utah

A Short History of the Inland Port

Here’s a rough timeline of the events leading up to the Utah Inland Port. (IT GOES BACK EVEN FURTHER)

  • 1984 – Utah state and local governments authorized inland port authorities
  • 1987 – Inland port task force created
  • 1990 – Feasibility study performed around the need for a centralized entity for freight
  • 2013– World Trade Center Utah is brought in
  • 2014 – Utah gets involved with the Global Cities Initiative to develop a “metropolitan export plan” (It appears that plans were placed on hold for a while, likely due to the ramp up for the Olympics in 2002.)
  • 2016 – U Policy Institute performs a detailed market assessment for the inland port
  • 2018 – Salt Lake City finds out about the plans and leaders oppose the massive land grab
  • 2018 – Utah Senate bill SB0234 creates the Utah Inland Port Authority (UIPA)
  • 2020 – By law, an “outside” firm audits the UIPA and everything checked out
  • 2021 – Utah legislature creates a state “bank” for UIPA projects
  • 2021 – UIPA enters into agreement with Port of Long Beach
  • 2021 – ResearchGate publishes a social impact assessment
  • 2022 – HB443 shores up funding through property tax differential provisions
  • 2022 – Utah Supreme Court affirms legality and constitutionality of the laws that established the port

It’s picking up steam. It was created by law, had its legality challenged by Salt Lake City, and was upheld by the Utah Supreme Court. It seems like those opposed to its development need another strategy. But with enough pressure, we can still halt this action.

In 2016, Governor Herbert got the ball rolling again. Probably referring to Trump’s efforts to protect America from nations taking advantage of us, Herbert said, “despite anti-trade, isolationist rhetoric at the national level, Utah remains committed to promoting international trade.” Why would the state ranked 30th in size by population be concerned about promoting international trade?

The resurgence of their plans got off to a bumpy start when Mayor Biskupski of Salt Lake City filed a lawsuit against the inland port’s legality. This is somewhat surprising given that Salt Lake City seems poised to reap the most economic benefit from it. The mayor was supported by the Utah League of Cities & Towns which called the creation of the Inland Port Authority “nothing short of a state takeover of a swath of Salt Lake City without the city’s consent.”

While the League is probably correct in their assessment, one can’t help but think we’re just squabbling over tax revenue now.

Opposition heated up in 2019 as environmentalists disrupted public meetings in protest. Unfortunately, their position was to claim that the lands the proposed port would be built on was once considered sacred by the Shoshone, Ute, and Goshute Indian tribes. Has the “sacred burial site” tactic ever worked in the long run? Sadly, this proved to be a weak position, although we understand the point.

In response, state legislature ignored their concerns and doubled down by passing HB433 which essentially prohibits any city from bringing legal action against the port, or any other challenge to the authority’s creation or existence. As a formality, the bill was discussed for 15 minutes on the floor of the state legislature. Red flag: very suspect for a project this size.

It almost sounds like they are enshrining the port authority above the law. Not surprising given that in coastal cities, some port authorities have their own law enforcement. They can be like sovereign nations within a state.

Greg Hughes, who was the Speaker of the Utah House of Representatives when SB 234 was passed, appointed himself as an Inland Port board member. Red flag: conflict of interest. He quickly resigned the post once the obvious was pointed out to him.

Derek Miller, who was also the chair of the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce (red flag: deep state), sent an email in October 2019 inviting a national rail business to take a spot on the chamber’s “exclusive” Inland Port Committee, in exchange for $10,000. The corruption is strong with this one.

There have been plenty of concerns raised about air pollution and increased coal consumption and train traffic. Critics fear the port’s presence would ease the export of coal. (That sounds more like a plus.) If this project was being discussed by a legit business, it would be DOA with these objections from Democrats. The fact that it is still going forward suggests it is being pushed by a force stronger than the Left.

Why an inland port?

To understand why the powers that be are ramming this through, let’s look at the mission statement and objectives from their 2020-2024 Business Plan:

“The Utah Inland Port Authority has the unique responsibility to coordinate significant market demand in logistics-dependent industries with air quality, environmental, and community goals. The UIPA is also charged with channeling logistics and economic development activities statewide, including improving rural Utah’s global trade connections.

“For Utah’s residents and businesses, the Utah Inland Port Authority is pivotal. By establishing a strong, resilient, and flexible goods movement network statewide, the Authority will help ensure that logistics activity will remain the backbone of our economy and continue to erode support our high quality of life.”

Until now, you may not have known that “logistics activity” is the backbone of Utah’s economy. It’s interesting that their business statement doesn’t even say that the inland port is pivotal. It says the “Authority” is pivotal. It’s frightening that in the Authority’s mind, they have been give the charge to “channel economic development activities statewide(!?)”

Does this mean that if your business wants to participate in economic development now, you must make sure it’s properly channeled through the UIPA? How does an entity that didn’t even exist 5 years ago suddenly find itself in charge of statewide economic development? Red flag: massive government takeover of economic activity.

The UIPA is governed by a Board of Directors consisting of 11 members, now reduced to 5 with a 6th unelected, and most SLCo members removed. The Utah Inland Port Authority is charged with “revolutionizing global logistics for the next generation.” The executive team currently consists of Jack Hedge, Executive Director, Jill Flygare, Chief Operating, Officer, Ginger Chinn, Managing Director of Business Development, and Taneesa Wright, Executive Assistant.

From reading their marketing material, it’s easy to see that the those behind this effort understand the objections that will be raised and how to bulldoze them with sweet talk and dog whistles to the Left. The business plan is very environment-friendly all the way down for plans for “dark sky” lighting. Look at their vision statement.

Strategy from the Business Plan

Their mission is to promote “sustainable” (green) and “equitable” (justice) logistics. It’s nothing if not ambitious. Utah will be a leader in revolutionizing global logistics? Utah? Revolutionize global logistics? Why?

Objectives and Roles from the Business Plan

The Authority sees itself as the leading trade and logistics hub? So, their objective is to surpass Long Port Beach and Hong Kong as trade hubs?

Their third objective raises the biggest red flag. The Authority will become a “steward of local communities.” What does that even mean? It sounds like Big Brother watching over us. Us poor little local communities need someone to take care of us.

By their estimate, development of the inland port will be the single largest economic development effort in the history of the state. No doubt. And whenever you have a large economic effort, you have a large amount of corruption.

The Benefits of the Inland Port

If all goes according to their beneficent, well-thought-out business plan, the benefits the intermodal port will bring to Utah are predictable. According to their dream scenario (#4 in the UIPA Scenarios Comparison 2050 OUTLOOK), where “the Utah legislature grants UIPA additional authorities; and others (legislature, state and regional agencies, municipalities, landowners, developers, railroads, trucking companies, etc.) collaborate to advance economic, environmental, and community outcomes,” the economic and environmental benefit would be huge.

Some of the promises over the next 28 years:

  • 3%+ annual employment increase in the UIP area
  • 64,000+ additional jobs in the UIP area
  • $1.62 billion in additional labor income
  • $2.7 billion in value-added GDP
  • 23,000+ additional jobs in the region
  • Fewer truck trips (due to increased intermodal activity) resulting in decreased emissions
  • Reduced consumption of polluting diesel fuel
  • Increases in CNG, ethanol, and electric transportation – how’s that working out California
  • Increased number of newer trucks, retirement of additional older trucks
  • Reduced CO and NOx emissions from mobile sources
  • Mitigated potential impacts to surface water, habitat, and floodplains
  • Reduced impact to wetlands and endangered species- what? It literally does the opposite

Why would anyone be against any of these results?

Of course, this is the best possible outcome and assumes nothing falls short in execution. It also ignores those who have gone before us and what has happened to their state because of it.

Some concerns with an inland Port

As Utah careens wildly into a future California 2.0, are we ready to deal with the problems that California 1.0 faces? Here are a few that are top of mind.

Corruption

A study was done in the Los Angeles area which found that LAX was the most corrupt entity in Los Angeles. The LA Port was second.

It appears that the back scratching in the Utah port project has already begun.

After a public records request, the Salt Lake Tribune learned the port authority issued a $2 million contract to QuayChain in 2021, and the contract was not put out for bid. QuayChain appears to be an untested start-up with little track record and few employees. They have been hired to do what a university professor described as a master’s project for a student in his lab. How will Utah avoid, or at least minimize, the cutthroat quid pro quo and pay to play that naturally comes with the territory?

Ports and Teamsters Union go hand in hand. Is there a more notorious organization than the Teamsters for hardball corruption?

Infrastructure

The UIPA plans talk a lot about transitioning to “sustainable” (ie, electric) energy. Setting aside the argument of whether going electric will be an overall greener energy solution, will Utah’s energy grid be able to support a rapid and massive switch to electric-powered logistics without resorting to planned rolling brownouts like California has had the last few summers?

Drug Smuggling

As cargo is diverted from coastal ports to inland ports, how long will it be before illicit cargo such as fentanyl and heroin is being “checked in” at the Utah Inland Port? And along with all that contraband come the people charged with keeping an eye on it.

According to European Union Ambassador to Ecuador Charles-Michel Geurts, there has been an increase in the seizure of drugs hidden in Ecuadorian exports in the last three years. Guess where the hot new destination for those exports will be in the future? Is Utah law enforcement ready to go up against international drug cartels?

Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is the world’s fastest growing criminal enterprise and is an estimated $150 billion per year global industry. Even worse, 2 million children worldwide and 100,000 in the U.S. are commercially sexually exploited every year. Los Angeles has one of the highest incidences of trafficking due to their proximity to airports and the port of Los Angeles. It seems like this should be a much bigger concern for Utahns than the status of migratory birds.

 

Source for image

Unbridled Government Overreach

There are already plenty of signs that UIPA is being set up as a government hammer with a mandate that must not be questioned. The legislature has already passed a law saying the authority cannot be sued by other state, county, or city governments

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In 2021, SB 243 “authorizes the Utah Inland Port Authority to levy an assessment under the Assessment Area Act and makes provisions of that act applicable to the inland port authority.” At the same time, the bill set up a state bank loaded with $75 million for UIPA projects which would help the legislature “focus on rural efforts.”

This year, The Utah Inland Port Authority board voted to acquire — either through purchase or condemnation — 41 acres owned by Suburban Land Reserve, a real estate arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Never mind that a local railway company had already secured funding to purchase the same land to improve quality of life for residents near their tracks on the west side of Salt Lake County.

The Port Authority laments, “While the UIPA does not have tariff authority to influence the conversion of cargo-handling equipment, locomotives, and trucks serving the port to more fuel-efficient sources, UIPA intends to develop incentives to move toward the implementation of renewable energy.”

They are barely even a government agency, and they are already wishing they had tariff authority to “influence” that transition toward “renewable” energy. What else will they want to “influence” one they get the authority they seek?

The Green Agenda

The UIPA declares as its mission a beautiful future with massive “coordinated” economic and employment growth all done with the utmost care for air quality, wetlands, and the environment. Anyone that opposes this vision will be labeled a regressive neanderthal, or maybe a domestic terrorist.

In their press release announcing a 2021 agreement with the Port of Long Beach, we are informed that the collaboration will lead to “cleaner, more cost-effective and innovative strategies.” In this marketing piece, innovation takes a back seat to money and greenism.

Utah State Senator Jerry Stevenson said, “We have the opportunity to build a new port unlike anything else in the world. I think all the industries that want to come here will all be very green.” So now we have entire industries wanting to come to Utah?

Of course, only “green” business will want to take part (or perhaps be allowed to take part) and they will all be “very green.” Translation: the UIPA will be the one who sits in judgement of your business’s greenness and decide whether you are green enough to take part in the green economic bonanza.

It’s also a red flag that the plans for this port are that it will be “unlike anything else in the world.” One can only believe that its most unique characteristic will be its sheer size, a goal that seems at odds with its eco-friendly objectives.

Conclusion

The plans for an inland port in Utah make geographic sense. Utah is very centrally located and has been known as a “crossroads” for over a century. There is no question that pursuit of economic objectives is desirable. Providing more jobs for a growing population is good.

The difficulty begins as you start to imagine some of the negative consequences of the “largest economic development project in the history of the state.” Utah already has very low unemployment. Tens of thousands of people and their families will have to move to Utah to fill the new positions. This will place a strong upward pressure on already-skyrocketing home prices that have suffered under a mini-West Coast exodus to Utah as residents try to escape the cultural consequences of massive economic growth in California 1.0.

Such a large influx of people will inevitably result in crowding, pollution, crime, a culture shift, and a Utah that is largely unrecognizable to long-time residents.

Compound this with the growth of a new government entity with authority that cannot be questioned, complete its own bank, the backing of the State Legislature and Utah Supreme Court. We could end up like the next Los Angeles in a couple short generations.

If you are wondering about the forces driving this development, signs point back to former Governor Jon Huntsman Jr.’s 2006 efforts to get a World Trade Center building located in Utah. “I noticed that most major cities had World Trade Centers,” he said, “and I wanted Utah to have the benefit of being part of an expansive, international network.”

Israel’s desire to “be like all the nations” quickly led to all the tragedies warned against by Samuel. Perhaps they would have been better off minding their own business.

There is plenty to be concerned about with the Utah Inland Port and we should all be working to raise awareness among Utahns and see if we can get a bridle on this dragon and reign it in.

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