Figuratively speaking, the Legacy Highway ball is back in the Army Corps of Engineers' court. Now the Corps needs to handle it in the spirit it was delivered.
Gov. Mike Leavitt boldly pushed for approval of the 13-mile West Davis Highway section of the proposed 120-mile thoroughfare by announcing last week the creation of the Legacy Land Preserve and Parkway, a 1,600-acre strip of now-protected land lining the shores of the Great Salt Lake and the preferred highway route.That's the concession the state is willing to offer the federal government in order to gain acceptance for "Alignment C," the route that would destroy 160 acres of wetlands. The Army Corps of Engineers wants it moved farther east, to "Alignment A," which would result in slightly less destruction of the wetlands - 115 acres - but cause monumental problems to the infrastructure of the various communities.
For the sake of a measly 45 acres the state is willing to guarantee the protection of 1,600 acres in order to have the "Alignment C" proposal, the one favored by most city officials and all seven transportation commissioners, receive federal approval.
It should. Surely this compromise position by the state, which would mean approximately a $2 million loss in taxes annually due to loss of development, merits a like compromise by the Army Corps of Engineers.
This is a win-win situation. The cities and state would get what they want and the federal government would get a guarantee that development would not proceed west of the highway.
However, as we have stated before in dealing with the interaction of state and federal officials, particularly regarding the Legacy Highway, logic and bureaucracy are often not a good mix.
Therefore it's puzzling, but not too surprising, when a local Army Corps of Engineers official says that, despite city, county and state efforts, it's doubtful he, his superiors or the Environmental Protection Agency will change their minds. Approval of Alignment C is still likely to be denied.
Still, the governor is wise in creating the preserve and in joining Utah congressional leaders in meeting with the national leaders of the Army Corps of Engineers. At least he's giving Alignment C the optimum chance of succeeding. The Army Corps of Engineers needs to do the same.