County, state officials exploring Nine Mile Road funding options
|County and state officials observe ongoing roadway improvements near the Great Hunt panel in Cottonwood Canyon. The panel is among the more famous petroglyph sites in the Nine Mile Canyon area. Various entities have joined ranks to help preserve the historical and cultural elements throughout the canyon. Now county officials are looking at developing sources of funding to improve the road through the canyon bottom.|
Carbon County officials met with representatives from state and federal agencies last week to encourage funding for improvements on Nine Mile Canyon Road.
Agencies invited to the July 12 tour of the road included the United States Bureau of Land Management, and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. Staff from the offices of U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch and Sen. Bob Bennett also toured the area.
Carbon Commissioner Bill Krompel presented the group with a preliminary estimate for improving the route. The estimate does not encompass the entire road.
"We think the best solution is collaboration with state, local, federal and industries to make this a safe road," said Krompel.
Sections of the road that need more urgent help were considered. The estimate broke down a total cost of almost $3.7 million for the project.
The funding would improve sections adjacent to five ranch house areas, two sections of Gate Canyon, a realignment change and five other specific areas with problems.
The first section of road is roughly 2,300 feet near mile post 19 and Bernard Cabin. The cost estimated for that section is $473,513.
A 1,000-foot section near mile post 20 is estimated to cost $418,959.
Another $238,481 would improve 2,000 feet near mile post 23.
A fourth section near mile post 26 would improve 1,000 feet of road, costing $124,272. And $358,441 is the estimated cost for 3,000 feet between mile posts 26 and 27.
The estimates presented by Krompel outlined the improvements at five ranch houses.
The improvements would require paving 1,000 feet near each house. The five sections included in the estimates would cost $103,428 per improvement.
Two improvements in Gate Canyon would cost and estimated $662,328 and $773,734.
Each section outlined included costs of construction, upgraded signs and materials for paving the road and handling drainage and signs.
Krompel pointed out that, while the suggested road projects would only improve specific sections of the road, they would focus on the areas that are more sensitive to dust within the canyon.
The areas included residences, corrals and pastures.
In addition, archaeological sites in the canyon have been noted and some improvements suggested in the estimates would help alleviate dust in those areas.
As the county conducted the tour through the Nine Mile Canyon area, participants met with representatives of Hunt Oil at Bruin Point.
|A truck hauling gas well drilling equipment crosses Cottonwood Creek near the Great Hunt panel. Improving sections of road such as this one is costly and county and state officials are looking for the best ways to fund the growing needs throughout the Nine Mile Canyon region.|
The corporation owns a large section of land that spans from Bruin Point to the east, down Dry Canyon and toward Range Creek.
Hunt Oil expressed its concern over unauthorized hunting on sections of their land.
County and state officials addressed some of their concerns relating to trespassing and how to handle deer and elk hunting in both the short term and the long term.
From Bruin Point, the tour headed down Cottonwood Canyon, stopping at petroglyph sites.
The group observed the improvements in progress at the Great Hunt panel near the mouth of Cottonwood Canyon.
While the work at the panel is not completed, the road has been rerouted.
The road used to pass just in front of the panel and now has been routed away.
However, efforts to move the road away from sensitive areas create new obstacels.
In the case of the Great Hunt panel, the road now crosses Cottonwood Creek in two new locations. The new stream crossings need improvement and high water levels make the crossing impassible by smaller vehicles.
Progressing down Nine Mile Canyon, the tour group stopped at other historical sites and observed road conditions. County officials pointed out areas that are so narrow that two vehicles would have trouble passing each other.
In addition, fine dust flies into the air as vehicles pass over it. That dust makes visibility so poor that drivers could not see the road in front of them.
Participants in the tour quickly noticed that safety in those areas was at a critical level. With the amount of particulates that flew into the air, it was apparent that a vehicle could run off the road or collide with another vehicle.
Those areas with dust problems are among those that Carbon County commissioners are hoping to improve. However, the county exhausts the resources it has available on maintenance of the road as it is. Improvements are well outside the scope of the current budget.
Staff from Hatch and Bennett's offices suggested that the county may want to explore funding from an angle other than transportation.
They related that the senators take direction on funding priorities from the Utah Department of Transportation. So in order for a specific road to receive federal funding backed by the senators, it needs to be a priority of UDOT.
Even if the county is able to get Nine Mile Canyon Road listed as a UDOT priority, it may be years before it is high enough on the list to be noticed and funded.
Another option may be to seek funding for the road as it relates to the areas energy or historical resources. With energy companies using the road on a daily basis and the rich history throughout the canyon that many are trying to preserve, the route has already been noticed as an important corridor for those types of activities.
While the energy industry is responsible for some of the traffic increases, tourists and the groups that want to protect the canyon are creating the rest of the problems in the area.
"The irony is that as industry has used the road more, international and national attention has increased," said Burge.
That phenomenon has proved troublesome to the county. Since the area received increased attention relating to energy interests there, groups that want to protect and preserve have frequented the area more.
Other factors complicate the road and planning for improvements. Nine Mile Canyon Road weaves back and forth between Carbon and Duchesne counties. Both counties now say they want to turn the road back over to UDOT for management.
In addition, the issue of rights of way which plagues so much of Carbon County extends into Nine Mile Canyon. As the road crosses private and federal land, the county often has no more than a prescriptive right of way. No defined road widths have been established and county officials are working with land owners to resolve where fences that border the road should be located.