Seven counties in the region are teaming up to coordinate and promote any activities that could strengthen economic ties and commerce across the area.
On Feb. 18, the Grand County Council became the latest entity to join the Eastern Utah Economic Development Coalition. The board voted unanimously to sign on to an agreement that creates an informal advisory group with Carbon, Daggett, Duchesne, Emery, San Juan and Uintah counties.
Other participants include two state senators, economic development directors from each of the participating counties and Gov. Gary Herbert’s energy advisor, according to a press release from The Utah Center for Rural Life.
Grand County Council chairman Lynn Jackson said the idea for the coalition grew out of discussions to improve the region’s overall transportation infrastructure.
Over the last few months, preliminary talks have focused on the feasibility of building a more direct route between Grand and Uintah counties, Jackson said.
However, he emphasized that the group has to study the issue in much greater depth.
“No decisions are going to be made,” he said Jan. 21. “There are still a lot of questions.”
The coalition will also explore the idea of building a crude oil pipeline along existing rights of way between Duchesne and Carbon counties, according to The Utah Center for Rural Life.
Tanker trucks currently haul an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 barrels of crude oil per day from the Uintah Basin to a railroad facility in Helper, The Utah Center for Rural Life reported.
If support for the pipeline idea gains traction, coalition members believe it could ease truck traffic on a steep and winding mountain road over Indian Canyon.
Other improvements to eastern Utah’s transportation infrastructure would serve business opportunities tied to natural resources development, according to a county council memo from Jackson. That network would also enhance the flow of goods and services between the region’s communities, the memo says.
While transportation-related issues could dominate future discussions, Jackson noted that the coalition has more pressing work ahead of it.
For starters, it must formalize agreements with all seven counties, Jackson said.