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Front Page » February 9, 2006 » Local News » Nine Mile Canyon road tops list at meeting
Published 2,989 days ago

Nine Mile Canyon road tops list at meeting


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By TOM McCOURT
Sun Advocate reporter


Tourists from California look over Nine Mile Canyon from the road that is presently located there. Presently the road is unsafe in many places and increased heavy truck traffic could combine with more tourists to make for a more dicey situation if something isn't done to improve the road.

The Nine Mile Canyon Road was the main focus of the Carbon County Recreation and Transportation Special Service District meeting on Monday evening.

All of the Carbon County commissioners were in attendance, as well as representatives of the Bill Barrett Corporation (BBC).

Jim Felton and Duane Zavadil, representatives of the BBC, presented the board with a copy of a letter of commitment that was addressed to the county commissioners. The letter is an official pledge from BBC of $1 million to Carbon County for improvements to the Nine Mile Road in 2006.

The letter states that the $1 million is intended to support those planning and maintenance efforts that allows Carbon County to both begin work on improvements, as well as a means to leverage the county's activity with state and federal officials as proof of the county's intentions to improve the road.

The letter further states that the BBC hopes that some improvements can be accomplished immediately, and for maximum project benefit. BBC feels these improvements need to be completed by 2009.

Zavadil told the board that BBC needs a road within 2 to 3 years that allows all weather access to their production facilities on the Tavaputs. He said they would be satisfied with any type of road surface that provided the proper width and drainage to meet the needs of the industrial traffic.

BBC expects revenues over the life of the gas field project to be on the order of $4 billion, with royalties and tax revenues exceeding $700 million. The figures do not take into account the economic multiplier of over $1 billion in capitol investment that would be added to the general area.

The letter further states, "Both BBC and Carbon County recognize improvements to Nine Mile Canyon road will increase safety, suppression of dust, tourism, ranching and business effectiveness. More specifically, the ability for BBC to safely access the West Tavaputs Plateau translates to incremental revenue from the sale of natural gas and other hydrocarbon byproducts from the company's leasehold in the area. �. In light of these facts, BBC hopes Carbon County recognizes that such improvements constitute an investment with measurable, meaningful returns toward assuring the viability of the different uses in 9 Mile Canyon."

In presenting the letter, Zavadil told the board that BBC is working on an environmental impact study for a proposed 750 wells on the west Tavaputs field. He said that initially, only state and private lands were drilled, but in the last two years, most of the drilling has been on federal ground. He said that BBC expects to drill 16 wells per year for the next four years, and then there will be a period of rapid expansion of the field for a few years after that.

Last year, output from the wells averaged about 15 million cubic feet per day (mcfpd). For 2006, output is expected to average about 50 mcfpd. At full field development, which is expected to occur at 3 to 5 years after approval of the EIS, the gas field could be producing as much as 250 mcfpd.

County planning officials Dave Levanger and Rex Sacco walk along a section of Nine Mile Canyon Road where the magnesium chloride has "blown out." Officials feel the road needs major work with the heavier traffic expected in the future.

Carbon County's share of the federal mineral royalty is about 2.5 % of the value of the product produced. At 250 mcfpd, royalties paid to the county could reach more than $15 million per year.

Zavadil told the group that BBC is expecting to commit about $150 million per year to development of the gas field, and the limiting factor in the short term is the lack of compressor capacity to move more than 60 mcfpd. The company has requested a permit to expand the compressor station at the mouth of Dry Canyon, but the county commission has not given approval for the expansion yet.

To accommodate the expected full field development, Questar has proposed a new 24-inch pipeline that might take a route away from Nine Mile and over the Tavaputs plateau.

Zavadil told the board that BBC expects heavy industrial traffic on the Nine Mile road to be an issue for at least the next ten years as the gas field is developed. He said that once the EIS is completed, they expect a 6 to 8 year period of very heavy use as drilling progresses, and then much lighter use as the gas field goes into a non-developmental maintenance period. The gas field could have a productive life of 30 years or more.

Most of the heavy truck traffic in the canyon at the present time is tankers hauling Carbon Dioxide for use in well development. When asked how much CO2 it takes for each well, Zavadil said that a deep well requires about 1000 tons, and the product is hauled to the rig sites in trucks at 40 tons per load.

Albert Spensko then gave the board his assessment of what the options are for upgrading the road. He listed several possibilities that ranged from doing nothing to creating a fully reconstructed paved highway through the canyon. He told the board that almost anything is possible, but money and time restraints would be key to the project. He proposed a three-step outline by suggesting that the county secure the right-of-way, decide the type of road they want to build, and then set a timetable for the project.

County Planner Dave Levanger also gave the board a document that outlined the planning department's assessment and recommendations for the project. In his presentation, Levanger suggested that the county stay within the current disturbed area of the roadway. He said that by staying within the current road boundaries, the project could be done without submitting and waiting for approval of an environmental impact study.

Levanger recommended a multi-phased road project that could begin immediately. He said that an analysis of the roadway structure was already underway, and he suggested that a roto mill and chip sealed road would be the cheapest and fastest way to complete the project.

Spensko asked if the current roadway was wide enough to accommodate a 30-foot road base. He was told that most of the road would meet that standard.

There followed a lengthy discussion about the project. Right of way issues were a major concern. Levanger's study showed that 56% of the canyon road runs though private lands, 43% through BLM, and 1% through state trust lands. The board discussed several right of way issues, and the need to stay within the current disturbed area of the roadway if possible.

After a lengthy discussion, it was decided that Albert Spensko would be hired to act as liaison between the Special Service District, Carbon County, and the engineering firms hired to do the road study. A motion was made and passed to hire an engineering firm to do preliminary engineering on the project. The county will immediately begin securing funding and support for the project.

Commissioner Bill Krompel told those assembled that he had a letter from congressman Matheson that invited the county to submit an application for federal impact funds to help with the project. He said that the county might be able to secure a few million dollars for the project, but the application deadline is February 17. He said that since the deadline was so close, he had already taken it upon himself to ask an engineering firm to work up a quick, preliminary estimate that could be included with the application.

In other business, the district approved a $5 thousand grant to the Castle Country Regional Information Center.

The board then went into executive session.



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