The programatic agreement concerning Nine Mile Canyon will help protect rock art from dust. This panel (known by many as Santa Claus and his reindeer) that is high above the canyon floor does not get the brunt of the dust produced now, but it can still be affected according to experts.
Carbon County Commissioner John Jones will travel to the state capitol next week to sign the Nine Mile Canyon Road programmatic agreement (PA), with which various interested parties have agreed. After more than a year of hard work and negotiation, the agreement will protect cultural resources in the canyon from dust, while also permitting orderly and environmentally responsible natural gas development on the West Tavaputs Plateau. The signing will take place at 1 p.m. on Jan. 5 in the Gold Room at the capitol building.
"We want to be sure the record of decision (from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management) will move forward on the area," said Commissioner Bill Krompel, during the commission meeting. During the meeting, it was voted that Jones be retained as commission chair for a few more days, so that he can sign the document. Jones had been the chair for the last six months and the job was scheduled to be rotated to Krompel on Jan. 1. All commissioners agreed that, in consideration of Jones' previous involvement in working on the agreement, they would let him stay in that position a few extra days to ink the agreement. "Everyone needs to understand the environmental benefits of this (action.). Bill Barrett Corporation (BBC) will be paying for a lot of the road work."
The primary signatories for the PA include the BLM, the Utah State Historic Preservation Office, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, Carbon and Duchesne Counties, and BBC. Concurring signatories include the Utah State Public Lands Policy Coordinating Office, the Nine Mile Canyon Coalition, The National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Utah Rock Art and Research Association, the Colorado Plateau Archaeological Alliance, the Utah Professional Archaeologists Council, and the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.
"This agreement represents the kind of solution that can emerge when we successfully bring together groups with varied perspectives to find common ground," said Selma Sierra, BLM Utah state director last week. "Collaboration like this helps us effectively meet the challenge of managing public lands for multiple uses."
During the commission meeting, there was discussion about what actions will be allowed, according to the agreement. Some parties were concerned that provisions relating to dust plumes and hanging dust may be somewhat strict. Commissioner Mike Milovich pointed out his thought that, with lignite coatings on the roads, the problem should be controlled.
The agreement has been heralded in some quarters as the first step to solving many conflicts that have occurred in the last decade concerning the canyon. It will also bring jobs to Carbon County. In fact, Krompel says, it already has.
"I know a lot of people think all the work on this is in the past and, in the future, it will provide jobs only for the counties north of us, but that is just not true," he said. "Look who has been working on the roads; Nielsen Construction. They have a lot of employees and they are all over here. Pure CO2 has been sending their gas up the canyon for BBC to use on their wells; those jobs come from over here. Our airport has been a prime place to fly people in to work up there as well. We are going to get more and more benefits from this. And then there are the great mineral lease royalties that we, as a county, get from the production in the area."
The parties involved in the agreement collaborated to create a climate in which environmental responsibility and balanced energy development protect the area's abundant cultural resources. The resulting agreement addresses many project development issues, including possible visual and auditory impacts associated with energy development.
During the meeting, the commissioners also approved $427,000 in taxable lease revenue bonds for the construction of the Family Support and Children's Justice Center, which is currently being built near the Carbon County Fairgrounds. The complex is being constructed utilizing zero percent interest bonds and a $600,000 grant from the Community Impact Board.