Wetlands mitigation to boost cost of composting site

LOGAN – The price tag for Benson residents keeping a regional composting site out of their backyards will be up to $1.5 million for the city of Logan.

Logan Environmental Director Issa Hamud delivered that bad news to members of the City Council during their regular meeting on Tuesday.

City officials had been seeking county approval to rezone a city-owned 47-acre parcel of land at 1400 North and 3200 West in Benson from agricultural use to public infrastructure.

The purpose of that request was to establish a 10-acre site where biosolid waste products from a soon-to-be completed regional water treatment plant would be mixed with green waste to create agricultural compost.

After that idea was condemned by Benson residents and rejected by the Cache County Council, Hamud explained that the compositing site will now be located adjacent to the wastewater treatment plant west of the city along Valley View Highway (SR-30).

The revised plans call for the composting site to occupy just 6.8 acres of land for now.

“We believe that will be enough capacity, initially,” Hamud said. “We wanted 10 acres (in Benson), but we can get by with this size because we will keep the current compost facility at the landfill operating for at least a year, giving us two functioning compost operations.”

Within 20 years, he added, the city will need to double the capacity of the regional wastewater treatment plant. In anticipation of that expansion, the associated composting site will eventually need to expand to 20 acres and that will require at least some mitigation of surrounding wetlands.

Under the U.S. Clean Water Act, federal agencies require mitigation for the disturbance or destruction of wetlands, streams or the habitats of endangered species.

Such mitigation is usually accomplished by preserving, enhancing, restoring or creating wetlands, streams or conservation areas that offset adverse impacts to similar nearby ecosystems. To serve the public interest, federal agencies often require that the mitigation area be up to three times the size of the area actually adversely impacted.

“We think that, within the 20 acres (projected for the expanded composting site), we will impact about five acres of wetlands,” Hamud explained. “Depending on what the Army Corps of Engineers decides, we could be required to mitigate at a three-to-one rate. That means, if you impact five acres of wetlands, you could be required to mitigate 15 acres of land.

“Fifteen acres at prices ranging from $50,000 to $100,000 an acre is a cost of between $1 million and $1.5 million for the wetlands. That’s why we wanted to use that location in Benson, to hold down these costs.”

Given that unanticipated expense, Hamud warned that the city may be obliged to consider increased fees for environmental services starting in 2022.

The controversial composting site is critical to the successful operation of the multi-million dollar regional wastewater treatment plant that will be managed by Logan City officials because the plant’s biosolid waste products will be mixed there with green waste to create agricultural compost.

Concerns about possible odors escaping from the proposed compositing site motivated much of the residential opposition in Benson. But city officials say they plan to take all necessary steps to contain the smell of the composing site.

That can be accomplished, according to Leland Myers, the former general manager of the Central Davis Sewer District in Layton, by selecting the right composting process, running a professional operation and rapidly addressing any problems that arise.

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