Busting the Commissioner’s Myths

You may have recently received an email from Washington County encouraging you as a local to comment in favor of the Northern Corridor. This email provided 4 “myths” and the Commissioners’ explanations to dispel your concerns and show you that everything is hunky-dory.

Well, let’s take a look.

Quoted from email: “Myth #1: Dig first, think later: The Northern Corridor is a hasty solution.

If over 20 years of discussion is considered hasty, then maybe. The topic of the Northern Corridor has been around for more than two decades. At least one decade ago, intense research from local transportation planners predicted that the Washington County traffic systems will begin failing by 2025. Because of this calculated prediction, the route provision was promised to Washington County in 2009 but has since been held up by controversy. Our county leaders have spent countless hours further researching, preparing and negotiating the most balanced solution for our future. The Northern Corridor is without a doubt the best approach to prepare us for inevitable population growth, protect our lands and conservation efforts and provide a better quality of life for future generations. Without it, traffic modeling shows, Washington County residents can expect to add 300,000 hours per year onto their commutes.”

First, as someone who has been opposing the construction of this road for a long time, I’ve never heard anyone accuse the commissioners of being hasty. They are accurate. They have been pushing for this thing for over 20 years and the people have spoken time and time again that they don’t want a road through the red desert.

Second, the failing transportation system has other options. The most efficient of which would not require a new road but would expand the Red Hills Parkway into an express route. This alternative rates as good as or better than the NCH on all intersections considered. So why isn’t it the proposed solution?

Quoted from email: “Myth #2: The Northern Corridor is a gateway to future development.

Development along the Northern Corridor is prohibited. We will repeat ourselves just to be clear: DEVELOPMENT ALONG THE NORTHERN CORRIDOR IS PROHIBITED. The Northern Corridor is a bypass for traffic, that is all. In fact, our proposal limits development in other parts of Washington County currently in danger of being developed! Nearly half of the 7,000 acres in Zone 6, the area west of Bloomington, is owned by SITLA (State Institutional Trust Lands). The area  is home to more than 600 Mojave Desert Tortoises as well as several beloved hiking and biking trails. SITLA’s mission is to sell and develop land in order to generate as much revenue as possible. We have worked out an agreement with SITLA that the land they are currently trying to develop in Zone 6 will be annexed into the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve and subject to the reserve’s protections. This proposed annexation is only included in the “preferred alternative” of the Bureau of Land Management’s plan and only happens if the Northern Corridor is built.  Supporting the “preferred alternative” gives Washington County the road it needs while increasing protection for scenic landscapes.”

Hmm, I’m sorry but you emphasizing that development is prohibited doesn’t make it true. The National Conservation Area was already supposed to impede future destruction of the reserve, but here we are trying to get a road built through it. There exists private holdings within the Reserve that could be opened for future development as the bisected section of the reserve becomes a dead zone as the habitat is no longer ideal for the tortoises it was set aside for.

Zone 6, we’ve already gone over this, but… As much as it would be awesome to add this section of land to the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, we need to consider two things. First, half of the land is already protected. Second, there is already a planned Western Corridor that would bisect this section of land as well. So I’m not sure the Commissioner’s definition of protecting is the same as mine. We also know that the STLA land must be purchased by someone to actually be protected. This requires a tedious, expensive process and one that isn’t a likelihood in the near future.

Last point on this one, 600 desert tortoises? It seems like the County likes to use really high numbers when describing something they are pretending to want to preserve and really low numbers when talking about things that will be destroyed. Anyone who has spent any amount of time in the NCH proposed corridor will tell you there are way more than 40-50 tortoises. It doesn’t take too much time walking to find them.

Quoted from email: “Myth #3: The Northern Corridor threatens Pioneer Park and the Dixie Rock.

The Northern Corridor absolutely would not harm Pioneer Park or our Dixie Rock. In fact, one of the proposed alternatives WOULD require the removal of Dixie Rock, which we do not and will not support. Our historic landscape and heritage are immeasurably important to us. Pioneer Park and Dixie Rock are the property of St. George City. There is a possibility hiker access to Pioneer Park from the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve may be slightly affected, but elected officials are exploring options to mitigate these effects. Access to the area by traditional means (via Red Hills Parkway) will not be impacted. Pioneer Park, the Dixie Rock and other outdoor recreation with Pioneer Park will in no way be harmed by our proposal.”

This one is perspective and depends on how you define “harm.” For us, sandwiching the beloved park between another highway will drastically “harm” the experience. The views will be affected. Sound pollution which is already an issue will be more than doubled by the NCH. Anyone who uses Pioneer Park as access to the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve would now be forced to either start farther north on the other side of the NCH or navigate a highway. Neither of those alternatives fall outside our view of “harm.”

I do have to say that the fact that this one is included means we are being heard. Keep up the pressure.

Quoted from email: “Myth #4: The Northern Corridor will harm the Mojave Desert Tortoise.

The Mojave Desert Tortoise is a beloved staple in Washington County. We would never consider a plan that would compromise their existence. We predict 20-50 tortoises may need to be MOVED out of the path of the roadway, which our specialists would do with extreme care. Washington County’s wildlife biologists, in coordination with their counterparts at federal agencies, have a plan that will allow for the safe relocation of all tortoises who come near harm. The plan will also provide for tortoise road crossings, in the form of bridges and culverts, to further allow them to continue occupying their current territory. 

While the Northern Corridor would run through a small part of the Reserve, the 7,000 acres of Zone 6 will provide new protected territory for the tortoises that will experience less recreational traffic and better protect their existence in the long run. The biggest threat the tortoises have right now is wildfire. The Northern Corridor could also act as a firebreak that would ideally stop a fire and reduce its impact on the tortoise. “

I mean come on. You need to know your audience. Anyone who cares about the desert tortoise is not going to be for the Northern Corridor.

Here we see the ridiculously low estimate of affected tortoises. Not only is this count low, but any tortoise considered an adolescent was not part of their survey. We’ve seen from past projects, past habitat degradation that tortoise crossings via bridges and culverts don’t function. Tortoises are shy and don’t want anything to do with a four-lane highway. We have to agree with them.

We are locals!

The Commissioners’ email also falsely asserts that the majority of comments are coming from people outside of the area. First, this is a National Conservation Area so there is nothing wrong with someone who doesn’t live here being concerned with the degradation of their public lands for the benefit of a few at the cost of everyone. Second, everyone who is involved with Save Pioneer Park lives and recreates in downtown St. George. We use the affected area almost daily. I personally was born in the Dixie Regional Medical Center, graduated from every school with Dixie in its name and currently live in downtown St. George. I don’t know how much more local I can get.

Today, September 10th is the last day for comment. If you haven’t already, go here and follow the directions. The time to act is now!

Save Pioneer Park!

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