The City Council will hear a request Wednesday to reconsider its decision to allow Salt Lake County to build a minimum security jail, said Mayor Jim Davis.
Davis has publicly expressed his opposition to the jail site but is not a voting member of the City Council unless there is a tie.Meanwhile, 26 residents fighting to keep the jail away from their back yards have enlisted additional help from the Army Corps of Engineers and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
A DWR analyst Monday bolstered the contentions of jail opponents that construction could have a negative effect on Jordan River fish and wildlife habitat.
And jail opponents distributed copies of a November letter by a Corps of Engineers official recommending Salt Lake County not build its jail on the proposed Jordan River oxbow site, about 32nd South and 12th West. They said the proposed building site was under 4 feet of water during the floods of 1983-84.
According to the letter written by Brooks Carter, chief of the corps' Salt Lake regulatory office, building the jail in the Jordan flood plain will worsen future flooding problems in the area and downstream.
Neighborhood opponents of the minimum-security jail contend the corps' recommendation was never discussed publicly and may not have been adequately considered before Salt Lake County received a permit for the jail.
They have filed an appeal with the city Board of Adjustment, which will meet April 25 to decide if it has jurisdiction to hear the appeal. The county has filed a motion to dismiss the appeal.
Larry Reed, attorney for the residents, admitted that the corps' letter was included in exhibits received by South Salt Lake but said, "no emphasis was directed to it."
"The letter is public information, and if people didn't know about it, it's because they haven't looked at the records," said Lee Colvin of the county's real estate section, to whom Carter sent the letter. "The letter says (the corps) would rather we didn't build the jail there, but no permits are needed as long as we don't fill in any wetland areas."
Carter told the Deseret News that the corps has no jurisdiction and therefore no official position concerning the jail site. But he said he believes building the structure there would be a mistake.
"My vision of a flood plain is where floods occur. It's not a place where we should build cities and houses," he said, adding that the river has changed courses for thousands of years and will likely jeopardize any edifice built there.
"Someday it's going to try and go around the jail and through it or something," he said.
Colvin said the county plans to stabilize the river to prevent it from shifting, but Carter said that would be detrimental to its health. Rivers are most productive when they form natural bends and channels and natural riffles and pools, he said.
"If you start trying to control the river . . . bad things happen both physically to the river and biologically," said Carter.
DWR terrestrial analyst Mike Schwinn also called the proposed site impractical because necessary flooding protection measures could damage fish and wildlife habitat.
"The river is locked in (its banks) on the north side of 33rd South," Schwinn said. "When it gets to this side it dissipates its energy and wanders back and forth across the flood plain. If the county dredges the river it will affect fisheries habitat. If they riprap the banks they'll take out young trees."
Colvin, however, said the county has a well-prepared plan to prevent flooding - including acreage to the north that can be used for valley storage and a recent agreement that will allow floodgates at Utah Lake to be shut during excess runoff times, which can greatly hold down the level of the river.
"You can't (leave alone) $2 million worth of land near the river . . . so the river can flow where it wants, he said.