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Front Page » April 1, 2008 » Local News » Leaders, technical subcommittee ponder Nine Mile Canyon's...
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Leaders, technical subcommittee ponder Nine Mile Canyon's future

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Sun Advocate reporter

Commissioner Bill Krompel shows photos of a map of the proposed drilling areas at Tavaputs Plateau at a recent meeting about the road in Nine Mile Canyon.

A scope of work for testing several dust control coatings on Nine MileRoad is under review by a technical subcommittee of a board newly formed to address problems in the canyon.

The members of the subcommittee were tasked with setting up the tests following a March 18 discussion between county, state and energy industry representatives about how to preserve the integrity of one of Carbon County's premier natural resources.

Utah Rep. Brad King was among the crowd of county staff, Carbon and Duchesne commissioners, representatives from Gov. John Huntsman Jr.'s office and energy industry executives who packed the small conference room at the County Expo Center on March 18.

The gathering was the first meeting of the tentatively named Nine Mile Canyon Road Cooperative Board.

"Nine Mile Canyon is comprised of 40 percent public and 60 percent ownership," said Carbon Commissioner Bill Krompel, who opened the meeting with a Power Point presentation. "There used to a be a lot of logging through there. Now we maintain it as a multipurpose road."

The core mission of the new group is to preserve the canyon as a resource while sharing the road with trucks and equipment used at the Tavaputs Plateau gas fields.

The key issue is the condition of the road that runs from Carbon to Duchesne through Nine Mile.

"I heard lots and lots of negative comments on its (Nine Mile) looks," said Carbon Tourism Board Director Kathy Hanna-Smith, referring to what she heard from participants in a recent out-of-town sports show. "What can we do to survive together in that canyon? We are losing a lot of tourists because of the conditions."

According to Krompel, the new Nine Mile board's goal will be to address major issues such as those raised by Hanna-Smith and find solutions as the activity on the plateau is about to increase.

Krompel presented the board's four objectives, which are as follows:

•To develop and recommend a long-term implementation plan to improve and maintain the Nine Mile Canyon Road and its primary arterial roads.

•To identify and recommend an effective, environmentally responsible dust suppressant method for application in the short-term, beginning in spring 2008.

Such a method would be an alternative to the use of water and magnesium chloride as suppressants.

•To identify a financial strategy to fund long-term improvements and maintenance of the roads.

•To identify opportunities to increase law enforcement in the Nine Mile Canyon area of Carbon and Duchesne counties.

Krompel's Power Point presentation showed picture after picture of the canyon and the varying road and infrastructure conditions.

The visual trip through Nine Mile showed areas with large potholes, structural damage to Cottonwood Bridge, apparently caused by an accident.

"This is the good, bad and the ugly," said Krompel, referring to the photos taken by Larry Prettyman, county safety coordinator. "You have to remember, Larry's taking these (photos) from a safety perspective."

Krompel went on to point out that the road is important to the county for a variety of reasons and that maintaining it is a very pricey proposition.

"The problem is it takes about $2.25 million per mile to keep it up and we could take the whole county budget for a year and not make a dent in it."

The Carbon commissioner said he appreciated the help from the energy companies in the efforts, but acknowledged that upcoming gas drilling will increase the needs.

Currently, the environmental review study on the impact of drilling 807 more natural gas drilling on the west Tavaputs Plateau is being made available for public input until May 1.

Proposed by the Denver-based Bill Barrett Corporation, the project has already come under attack by members of the Nine Mile Canyon Coalition for its potentially harmful impact on the ancient canyon.

Steve Tanner from the Coalition was on alert at the March 18 meeting, commenting several times on the need for comprehensive engineering of the road to come up with a long-term solution to the dust - in particular the drainage issues.

While the core of the meeting centered on finding a coating that would accomplish the goal of long-term dust control, the need to look at the canyon road's infrastructure was not ignored.

"If you don't have a good road structure none of this will work," said Curtis Page, county engineer.

But faced with the impending explosion of work at Tavaputs, the group brainstormed on more immediate solutions.

A representative from Jones & DeMille Engineering presented an overview of dust control products that ranged from spraying water to actually paving the road with asphalt.

The comprehensive list included how often the products must be applied, the potential environmental impacts of the materials and the advantages and disadvantages of water, hydroscopic salts (chlorides), organic products, synthetic polymers, PennzSuppress and hard surfacing.

Presently, Bill Barrett Corporation sprays magnesium chlorides twice a year.

While the product had the advantage of reducing moisture evaporation and a low freezing point, the list of disadvantages was long.

The problems with magnesium chloride include, being effective for only about two weeks, creating toxic environments for aquatic life, causing negative impacts to vegetation and corroding metal.

Of the six choices PennzSuppress appeared to stand out for its overall advantages. The list included not being harmful to ground water or vegetation, being less toxic than aspirin, salt or sugar, reducing 85 percent of dust after 7,000 vehicles crossed the road in tests and performing very well under arid conditions.

The United States Bureau of Land Management representative serving on the new board offered comments about Barrett's continuing application of the hydroscopic salts.

"We are concerned about the deleterious effects of magnesium chloride,"said Brad Higdon, planning and environmental coordinator with Price BLM.

The representatives from Barrett Corporation said eliminating the product immediately might not be feasible.

"We retain the ability short- term to use water and magnesium chloride," said Jim Felton, communications manager for Bill Barrett.

As for actually paving the road in Nine Mile Canyon, Carbon County Commissioner Mike Milovich had an unequivocal response.

"We need to face this - we aren't getting this done with asphalt," said Milovich.

The Nine Mile Canyon Road Cooperative Board is scheduled to meet quarterly. However, testing dust control products on the road is likely to proceed prior to the next meeting.

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