Jim Felton of Bill Barrett Corp., Commissioner Mike Milovich and Trish Claybaugh of the BLM smash the champagne bottles in Nine Mile.
The smashing of champagne bottles against a massive road grader in Nine Mile Canyon Monday afternoon made it official: the anticipated road improvement work has begun full-scale operations.
It's a project that will, in the words of Bill Barrett Corp. Communication Manager Jim Felton, "bring Nine Mile Canyon road far from its 19th century roots to 21st century standards."
Those standards are designed to improve safety and reduce dust on the old dirt road, which has seen increasingly heavy truck use since Bill Barrett began developing its West Tavaputs natural gas leases in 2002.
Carbon County Commissioner John Jones also noted that the improvements are intended to enhance tourism and protect the archaeological treasures of the canyon.
The improvements will affect 34 miles of the Nine Mile road from the Soldier Creek Mine to Cottonwood Canyon, one mile of Harmon Canyon and one mile in Gate Canyon.
Plans call for grading, with gravel and hard surfacing over most of the road. Some sections with sharp curves and steep grades will require asphalt for a more durable surface to prevent tearing.
In addition to the surface improvements, the project also entails culverts and ditches to prevent erosion and washouts, and protection of the creek channel.
The work is expected to be completed by December 2012. During that time, contractor W.W. Clyde, BBC and the county will be working with federal, state and Native American archaeological experts to monitor construction in culturally sensitive sites - ancient rock art and structures - to avoid damage.
The county has already considered temporary impacts on tourism and tourism promotion. At a recent sesssion of the county commission, commissioner Mike Milovich recommended modifying the Travel Bureau's promotional brochure to advise people to expect delays during the construction period.
Bill Barrett Corp. will be paying for half of the $20 million construction cost. The balance will be made up with $5 million from the state Community Impact Boardand $5 million from various funding sources within the county.