Our View: Economy must diversify

 


With news that Rocky Mountain Power is considering an early retirement for two of the four units at the Jim Bridger Power Plant, Sweetwater County needs determined and thoughtful leadership now more than any time in the last 30 years.

One thing we would like to stress to the area’s elected officials is while we can take some solace in the fact the company intends to continue operating the Bridger plant until 2037, we shouldn’t act like that is a promise to operate the plant until then. Further analysis may show the company could save money by closing the plant sooner, similar to the study we’re talking about now, and that closure may occur in 2034 or even 2030. It isn’t out of the question, regardless of the carbon-limiting technology installed on the plant’s third and fourth units.

While the county continues to move through the preliminary work involved with its industrial complex proposal near the Southwest Wyoming Regional Airport, we shouldn’t put all of our eggs into this basket. The sped up retirement plans for half of the Jim Bridger plant drive home the need for a more diversified economy in Sweetwater County. We need to break away from the heavy reliance we have on the minerals industries. Minerals can still make up a large percentage of what we do here, but we should look at other potential opportunities outside of the extraction industries.


Tourism is a likely candidate, but one where he have to focus on Sweetwater County not being a place to stop at on a journey towards another destination, but one people actively want to visit as their main destination.

We have some of the pieces in place for this, such as Green River’s bike park and the Sweetwater County Fair.

One thought on how to further this is to petition for the creation of a Red Desert state or national park to give people a chance to experience the beauty found in the Red Desert. That experience could then be marketed to people throughout the region.

However, now isn’t the time to express disappointment in the RMP’s study or rally behind a mineral that’s clearly been in decline for a lot longer than most people care to admit. We need our communities and leaders to discuss and plan for a future without the Jim Bridger plant. This can’t wait for 2022.

 

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