Lawsuit aims to stop work on Little Cottonwood gondola, claims state cut corners in study

Environmental groups and outdoor enthusiasts are taking legal action to stop the construction of a gondola in Little Cottonwood Canyon and force the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) to reexamine the potential impact of the gondola on the canyon. A lawsuit filed in Salt Lake City’s federal court alleges that UDOT did not adhere to federally outlined standards during its study of the area and possible transportation solutions. The lawsuit seeks to invalidate UDOT’s Record of Decision (ROD) and prevent any construction related to the gondola project until a new environmental study can be completed.

The controversy over the gondola project has been ongoing for years, with numerous public meetings and tens of thousands of public comments. The proposed eight-mile gondola route through Little Cottonwood Canyon has sparked concerns about its impact on wildlife, water sources, recreational areas, and the overall natural beauty of the canyon. Environmental groups, including Friends of Alta, argue that UDOT’s environmental study did not adequately assess the gondola’s potential effects on the habitats of federally protected species such as golden eagles.

UDOT, which released the ROD in July, has not yet responded to the specific allegations made in the lawsuit. The current plans for the gondola project include 22 towers and three loading stations, with an estimated cost of $728 million.

Historically, Little Cottonwood Canyon has been a beloved destination for outdoor enthusiasts, offering unique opportunities for skiing, hiking, and climbing. The area’s natural beauty and ecological significance have long been cherished by locals and visitors alike. The outcome of the lawsuit and the future of the gondola project will have significant implications for the preservation of this iconic natural landscape.

Overall, the legal battle over the gondola project reflects the broader tensions between development and conservation in Utah’s natural spaces. As the debate continues, the fate of Little Cottonwood Canyon hangs in the balance, with advocates on both sides passionately advocating for their vision of the canyon’s future.

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