Alton Coal Mine in South Central Utah has applied to massively expand its current operations by 500%. A corresponding increase in semi-truck traffic in historic nearby towns, affect on local national park tourism, habitat, affect on views and more have local residents concerned.
Written by Dick Cumiskey, President Sevier Citizens for Clean Air & Water
Yesterday, Ann and I drove to Panguitch to get some more firsthand knowledge of the potential damage heavy coal trucks might be imposing upon the historic district of downtown. Our timing proved to be off a bit as the truckers were not hauling coal that day. According to Bobbi Bryant, proprietor of Broncobobbi’s in Panguitch, the mine has recently reduced its digging and transportation to a four day week. Bobbi had inquired of the local officials as to why the workweek had been reduced to four days and was not given any plausible answer. Could it be that there is less demand for the product?
Many stately homes and businesses in central Panguitch are on the National Historic Preservation List, a status that gives them protection from unwanted changes and destruction. Most of these historic buildings were constructed over 100 years ago using a red brick native to the region and found nowhere else. Design and craftsman ship are evident when studying these well preserved structures.
I did have an opportunity to both listen to, and check for vibrations, in the building on Main St. while other heavy trucks were passing through. Most were 18 wheelers of the general cargo type and were probably traveling at greatly reduced capacity, making deliveries to stores, restaurants and other tourist supporting businesses in southern Utah. Trucks accelerating in the north bound direction, the same direction as ladened coal trucks would travel, definitely created harmonic vibrations that could be felt and heard, even if they were below the weight of coal trucks. These coal-haulers weigh in at about 80,000 pounds. In the hour that I spent in Bobbi’s store, only one truck created seismic vibrations that could actually be felt in the unreinforced brick walls. I will have to return on a scheduled work day to compare the heavy truck traffic to what was observed yesterday.
After leaving Broncobobbi’s we drove to Bryce Canyon National Park, taking advantage of the very clear air and warm temperatures experienced that day. Lo and behold, the road to Rainbow Point was even open – very unusual for wintertime. Attribute this to the general lack of snow in southern Utah. My goal was to check out the view from Rainbow Point towards Alton, Utah so that I might gauge the visual impact of the enlarged mine site should the BlM approve the strip mine application for Alton Coal, LLC.
Yes, the mine could easily dominate the view, were it to be approved. It would be the only scar on an otherwise pristine view to the southwest. After driving the 20 miles from the visitor center to the point this would become a very disheartening view. That is not one expects when traveling through nearly virgin stands of timber and majestic views of Bryce Canyon, itself.
While getting ourselves oriented to the directions seen from the point Ann pointed out what appeared to be shimmering smoke on the distant horizon. With the aid of binoculars we soon determined that it was the Page, Arizona coal-fired power plant responsible for both the smoke plumes and the surrounding haze. What a pity!
Simple Action Request:
For those of you who may not have stood in this location and cast your eyes upon this vast and expansive landscape I urge you to do so. There are few places in this world with such a magnificent view. The danger is that all of this could change should the BLM approve the application for this 3,500 acre strip mine not nine miles from Bryce Canyon. We urge you to contact the BLM at: firstname.lastname@example.org (add the line “Alton coal lease environmental impact statement” to the subject line) stating your opposition to this ill-conceived venture. Once the pristine aspect is gone – it is gone forever.
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