State Senator Karen Mayne (D) Salt Lake looks over pictographs in Rasmussen Cave that were defaced by someone more than 70 years ago.
Dust chokes the road in Gate Canyon on May 26 as legislators vehicles pass a large truck hauling oil field tanks. While most of the route into Nine Mile Canyon was dust free due recent rains, roads had dried out by afternoon.
While there were some questions about what was running down the side of the road in Nine Mile Canyon (some wondered if the puddle was oil from an operation), it turned out that it was discolored runoff from the rains that pounded the area the day before. The residue in the water was akin to pine pitch that is being tested on some sections of the road to see if that particular product will suppress the dust problem.
On May 26 some state legislators met to begin a tour of some of the energy fields, facilities and resources in eastern Utah. The tour, arranged by State Senator Kevin Van Tassell (R) of Vernal, was implemented so that members of the house and senate could see first hand what is happening in terms of energy development.
The tour began in Myton as the group met at the Hollow Moon Cafe, which is located on the road to Gate Canyon, and eventually leads to Nine Mile Canyon from the Duchesne side. Initially the group consisted of some media members, Van Tassell, State Senators David Hinkins (R) of Orangeville, Margaret Dayton (R) of Orem, Karen Mayne (D) or Sale Lake and house of representatives member Kraig Howell (R) of Heber. Van Tassell said that he had invited everyone in both houses and had received commitments from 10 to 15 representatives.
On the first leg of the trip the group traveled with officials from Bill Barrett Corp. down into Nine Mile Canyon through Gate Canyon to see part of the Denver-based company's operation there.
"Our wells are primarily above these cliffs, on the plateau above us," Duane Zavadil, Barrett's senior vice president for government and regulatory affairs told legislators as they stood in the parking area that was built by Barrett and others for the Great Hunt Panel in Cottonwood Canyon. "But we use Gate Canyon and then come up Nine Mile to Cottonwood up to Peters Point for our access to those wells."
He pointed out that the company is not drilling wells in Nine Mile Canyon, but they are drilling some places close to the edge of the canyon on top.
"We had gone through all the studies to approve 800 new wells in the area, but towards the end of last year we were told by the Bush administration that they would not approved those sites and would leave that approval for the next administration," he said.
He also pointed out the difference between the wells on Tavaputs and those in the Basin.
"There are typically richer (natural gas) reserves here than what you'll be seeing down in the Basin proper," said Zavadil.
The gas that Barrett has been taking out of the Nine Mile area is from tight gas sands rather than coal bed methane that comes from the ones that are in the valleys of Carbon County.
"We're hoping that we'll see an approval for the (West Tavaputs Plateau) project sometime in the next few months, once the new administration gets into place and gets familiar with the project," Zavadil told the legislators. "There is a fairly large concentration of gas in this small field. It could supply about 60 percent of Utah's consumption for 20 years."
Barrett has been working with both counties and preservation groups in Nine Mile Canyon on efforts to improve road conditions. The primary concern is dust suppression, which legislators learned can be an expensive problem to remedy. Last year a number of test strips were done in the canyon with various types of dust suppressants.
While big rains on Memorial Day weekend helped suppress most of the dust in Gate Canyon, they still saw first-hand how heavy the dust cover can be and how it can obscure the vision of drivers.
The second stop of the day was at the Basin headquarters of the state's top producer of oil, Newfield Exploration.
Editors note: This is a first in a series of articles concerning the legislative energy tour that took place Memorial Day week.