Vision of life after Atlas Mill site cleanup continues to take shape
by Rudy Herndon
Staff Writer
Oct 17, 2013 | 2709 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
It could be home to a trail system, a community park and an amphitheater, or it could be the future site of a high-end resort, a government office park and a research facility.

There are dozens upon dozens of ideas about the shape that the old Atlas Mill site could take if and when the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) relinquishes control of the 480-acre property.

All of them have their own merits, and Moab’s northern gateway is so vast that it may be able to accommodate many different uses, according to a group that’s evaluating the suggestions it’s received to date.

The Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action (UMTRA) Site Futures Committee has come up with four potential management plans that incorporate public feedback into a community vision for the property.

Under the rosiest of scenarios, that vision won’t take shape until 2025 at the earliest, and that’s assuming the DOE decides the property is surplus, officials say.

Site Futures Committee member Russ Von Koch says the community will just have to wait and see what the agency does.

In the meantime, he and other committee members are encouraging residents to help them develop a vision for a site.

“[This is] potentially an extremely important community asset,” he said during a Sept. 18 public workshop.

Few members of the public attended the meeting at the Grand Center – about 17 in all – but those who did had a chance to learn about the ideas that are already on the drawing board.

Each of the current development scenarios takes the property’s 100-year floodplain into consideration, which would limit construction of major buildings to higher elevations.

Energy conservation, solar power generation, open space preservation and shuttle services to Arches National Park are just a few of the common goals that pop up in all four management alternatives.

However, two of the scenarios put more emphasis on environmental restoration, floodplain protection and recreational uses.

On the other hand, a third alternative would reserve additional space for commercial development, which could potentially include a destination resort near U.S. 191.

“You’d have a lot more people on site, a lot heavier use,” committee member Jason Johnson said.

A fourth plan, which incorporates many of the ideas the committee has received to date, aims to balance commercial uses with site restoration work and recreational activities.

Ultimately, there are still a number of stumbling blocks to any large-scale development on the site.

First and foremost, the city does not provide culinary water or sewer services to the area, and it has no plans to do so in the future.

If the property does change hands, the committee determined that the new owner could set aside enough land for a sewage treatment facility. A dual water system could also be used to minimize the amount of culinary water that would be needed on-site.

However, if private investors are involved in any development efforts, Johnson noted that more options might become available.

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