The Nine Mile Canyon Coalition has called on people everywhere who value Nine Mile Canyon's critically threatened culture, history, and irreplaceable prehistoric rock art to comment on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the West Tavaputs Plateau. The Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) Price field office will release the EIS within the next few days.
The call for public comment comes on the heels of a Jan. 25, 2008 Science Magazine article titled "Dust Storm Rising Over Threat to Famed Rock Art in Utah" by Keith Kloor.
The results of the first serious dust study on Nine Mile Canyon's rock art are "very alarming," according to the study's author Constance Silver, an art conservator hired by the BLM. In addition to dust damage, the efforts by industry to suppress the dust by spreading magnesium-chloride are potentially even more harmful. Silver noted that the chemical (which eventually becomes airbourne with the dust) is "flying all over the place," and that nag-chloride ", , , is vicious stuff. It peels concrete."
According to Pam Miller, chair of the non-profit Nine Mile Canyon Coalition, "The EIS document is supposed to include this dust study and will determine in large part how the Nine Mile Canyon area will be managed for the next 10 years. Since 2002, the canyon has experienced the heavy impacts of the oil and gas industry. We have all seen the utter disregard for all values except energy development and, now, we are saying that enough is enough: balance must be restored in our public lands management agencies."
The number of natural gas wells proposed for this area since 2002 has grown from seven to over 800 on the plateau south of Nine Mile Canyon. Over 1200 wells are planned for the area north of the canyon.
Nine Mile Canyon, often referred to as "The World's Longest Rock Art Gallery," is presently the major corridor for equipment to develop natural gas from wells on the Tavaputs Plateau. In 2006, a huge, noisy compressor station, now containing 10 compressors, was built by Bill Barrett Corporation in Nine Mile Canyon, among many thousand-year-old prehistoric cultural sites.
The industrial traffic through Nine Mile Canyon was initially proposed to be 17-35 vehicle round-trips per day. In a recent survey, Carbon County counted 342 trips in one day. Two additional oil and gas companies propose another 500 additional trips per day using the winding, narrow, and formerly scenic back country byway to transport materials and workers to their drill sites.
Alternate routes have not been seriously considered by BLM up to this time. The upcoming EIS should be closely checked for alternative routes.
"Dust generated by semis, whether single or in convoy, drill rigs, heavy equipment, and pickups has become a safety issue and is changing the character and the nature of the canyon," stated Miller. "Attempts to mitigate the dust have been neither successful nor enforced- The rock art is covered with dust and magnesium-chloride. It is disappearing. Nine Mile Canyon has countless rock art sites right next to the road and traffic vibration effects cannot be good for these sites. Industry traffic can be dangerous for people viewing them."
The draft EIS, issued by the BLM, will also address wildlife, water, air quality, and cumulative issues, in addition to others. There will be a 90-day public comment period following public release of the draft EIS.
To order a printed copy, write or call the Price BLM field office, 125 S. 600 West, Price, UT, 84501, (435) 636-3460, or visit the BLM-Price field office website at www.blm. gov/utah/pricc for an electronic copy. Comments should be sent to this same office.
When reviewing the Draft EIS, readers should look for what it does not address as well as what it contains, as this will assist the BLM in producing an accurate, comprehensive, effective, and usable document.
For further information regarding these issues, please visit the Nine Mile Canyon Coalition's website at www.ninemilecanyoncoalition.org.