Service district fields request for Nine Mile road project funding
The Carbon County Recreation and Transportation Special Service District met Nov. 5 and approved a 2006 operating budget of slightly more than $7 million.
Introducing an unrelated matter at the meeting on Monday, Dennis Ellis appeared before the special service district board to ask for assistance in funding the Castle Country Regional Information Center.
Ellis explained that CCRIC is a coalition of several regional entities. The entities include the United States Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, Carbon travel bureau, Emery travel bureau, College of Eastern Utah, Carbon recreation, state parks, Canyonlands Natural History Association and the cities of Price and Castle Dale.
The organization was formed in 1999 for the purpose of providing tourist information in the Carbon-Emery area. The organization has a full-time director and operates through the CEU Prehistoric Museum with a second information center at the Stewart guard station.
The annual operating budget for the regional information center is slightly more than $40,000.
CCRIC provides an economic benefit to the area by promoting tourism and attendance at local and regional events, pointed out Ellis.
The Carbon County restaurant tax board has contributed $16,000 to the information center for the past three years, but will no longer make the same commitment.
Ellis asked the special service district to join the organization as a partner and contribute $10,000 for the coming year.
There followed a discussion about the merits of the organization, the way the information center has been funded in the past, who sits on the board, what members have contributed and what the interests of the partners have been.
Some special service district members expressed an opinion that the county restaurant tax board should maintain a larger share of promoting tourism than the special service district since restaurants and motels are chief beneficiaries of the tourist industry.
At the conclusion of the discussion, it was resolved to give $5,000 in special service district funding to CCRIC with the condition that the Emery County make a similar commitment.
CCRIC agreed to approach the Emery County Special Service District with the proposal.
The focus of the meeting then turned to the West Tavaputs gas development project and the Nine Mile Canyon road.
David Levanger, director of Carbon County planning and zoning, presented each board member with a packet of information about the gas drilling project and the county's interest in upgrading the Nine Mile road.
Levanger told the board that recent gas and oil discoveries near Richfield and Cisco could make Carbon County a major hub for the oil and gas industry. Service industries might choose the county as a central location for warehousing and distribution of material and services. A key to that development would be a good transportation link to the Tavaputs gas field. The Nine Mile road is the only practical route and the road is inadequate at this time.
Levanger explained that Carbon County has had jurisdiction over the Nine Mile road since 1969 when the state relinquished control to Carbon and Duchesne Counties. The majority of the road is in Carbon County.
Approximately 62 percent of the road passes through private lands and 38 percent across public domain.
Levanger explained that an upgrade of the road from Soldier Creek mine to the cottonwood panel would be a project spanning 50.1 total miles, with 43 miles in Carbon County and 7.1 miles in Duchesne County, indicated Levanger.
The Carbon planning and zoning director presented the board with a preliminary engineering study and estimated costs of basic improvements needed to upgrade the road.
Levanger stated that the county has spent over $221, 000 in 2005 maintaining the Nine Mile road and that the cost is increasing dramatically each year. He described how the road is becoming more dangerous each year with increased traffic and increased dust. The dust is doing damage to the petroglyph panels and cultural resources of the canyon and causing problems for landowners. In the past, magnesium chloride has been put on the road to control the dust, but it has been shown to be more harmful than the dust.
Levanger recommended that the county cover the road with a mix of rotomill, old asphalt that has been ground up for re-use from other state highway projects. He explained that the rotomill mix would give the road a reasonably good, hard surface, dramatically reduce the dust problem, lower the county's annual maintenance costs, and be much cheaper than a hot mix asphalt job. An added benefit would be that little or no widening of the road would be required and no environmental impact statement required.
Carbon Commissioner Bill Krompel and Neil Breinholt were of the opinion that the Nine Mile road should be upgraded as soon as possible to a full paved highway. Krompel said he has been consulting with engineers and contractors and has preliminary estimates of what it would take to pave the road. His calculations suggest that about 27 miles of the road through Nine Mile Canyon proper could be widened to 30 feet and hard surfaced for under $20 million.
Krompel and Breinholt suggested that a partnership be formed between the county and Bill Barrett Corporation to widen and pave the road.
The board discussed the possibility of seeking funding from the state community impact board and the possibility of a county bond issue.
Levanger told the group that Bill Barrett Corporation has already pledged $1 million for road upgrades in 2006, and that currently the county's share of gas mineral royalty funds from the Tavaputs project is $4.1 million per year. The number could increase to more than $15 million in three to five years if gas production expands to 250 million cubic feet per day as projected, according to the officials.
The special service district board was also reminded that an environmental impact study is currently being done for the expansion of the Tavaputs gas field. It was suggested that the road project be included as a part of that study. Doing so would reduce the time and money required to start an EIS from scratch.
Carbon Commissioner Steven Burge, who was at the meeting, told the board that time is of the essence if the county expects to capitalize on the economic development of the gas fields.
Breinholt suggested that the special service board develop a cost study, zero in on a plan, recruit partners, secure funding and complete the entire project of paving the road as soon as possible.
Once the special service district has a firm plan in place, board member Sam Quigley said he was sure that funding could be secured for the project.
Following the discussion, it was resolved that a sub-committee be formed to work out a plan for paving the Nine Mile road. The sub-committee will meet with engineers and representatives of the Bill Barrett Corporation to work out a firm commitment. They will present their proposal at the next special service district meeting. Representatives of the Bill Barrett Corporation will be invited to attend that meeting. Bill Krompel was selected as the sub-committee chairman.
In other business, Robert Pero presented the board with a year-to-date financial report. Brief updates on work at the Spring Glen basketball court and the county golf course were also presented. Krompel briefed board members on plans to construct new restroom facilities at the county softball complex at the fairgrounds. The board then approved an updated meeting schedule for the coming year.
In a final item of business at the Nov. 5 meeting, Quigley recommended that the board consider membership in the Southeast Utah Energy Producers Association. A motion was made and carried authorizing membership in the association.