Environmental concerns over planned Cache Valley subdivision
A controversial housing development project is proposing to fill in wetland areas and build homes in a floodplain on the west side of Logan, Utah.
There has been a boom in housing developments across Utah in light of the state’s rapidly growing population. In Logan, there lies a stretch of land near 1000 West and 1100 South that has been slated for a housing development with two lakes. Primarily used for agriculture and cattle grazing, this land lies at the confluence of the Logan River and the Little Logan River.
A company called Willow Lakes Holdings LLC, is planning to convert this area into the Willow Lakes Subdivision, a community of approximately 120 single family homes, six apartment buildings and two man made recreational lakes for tubing and water skiing. This development would be accessible from Highway 91 and is intended to create more recreational and housing opportunities in the county.
However, in order to create the space to build these homes, the company would need to fill in over 7 acres of wetland and perennial stream habitat, and a group of USU researchers have been outspoken about the environmental implications of this proposed project.
Jes Braun is a graduate student in the Wetland Restoration and Ecology Lab at USU.
“Wetlands are a vital and irreplaceable resource in Utah, and they must be protected. They're often called the kidneys of the landscape, because they filter the water that flows through them. And this allows for recharging of aquifers and also helps mitigate flood events,” Braun said.
They also explained the importance of wetlands for holding water in an area.
“The slowing and filtering of water is particularly important, especially in our current drought, as most of this water, if not slowed, can wash down the stream and out of our county and out of our state,” Braun said.
Currently, the development company has applied for a permit with the US Army Corps of Engineers that would allow them to begin construction. These permit applications are open to public commentary.
“The Army Corps of Engineers actually uses this as the primary method for advising the public of a proposed activity for which a permit is sought. So by soliciting comments like we're doing now, they can evaluate the probable impact on the public interest,” Braun explained.
Another concern brought up by groups opposed to this project is the high risk of flooding in these areas. Since the area is largely undeveloped, there is not a FEMA flood map created to accurately determine flood risks, and extreme weather events like flooding are expected to increase with climate change. Braun explains,
“One of the main legal arguments is that the developers are really not clear on section 404 of the Clean Water Act, which says that the filling or dredging of a wetland must not have adverse effects on the aquatic environment to the extent practicable,” Braun explained. “Here there are numerous instances where they have failed to show this. One is they're going to be building in a flood prone area, and two is indicating how they would minimize the impact.”
According to the Army Corps of Engineers website, the development proposal may impact federally listed threatened or endangered species, including the Northern Leopard Frog and one of two populations of Ute Ladies’ Tresses orchids in Cache Valley. Because of this, the proposal may need to be reviewed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for potential impacts under the Endangered Species Act.
Willow Lakes Holdings could not be reached about the proposal by the time of broadcast.
The public commentary period for this application is open from March 17 and through this Sunday, April 17. More information about how to comment on the proposal can be found at https://www.spk.usace.army.mil/Media/Regulatory-Public-Notices/Article/2969865/spk-2020-00588-public-notice-of-permit-application-willow-lakes-holdings-llc-10/