A mechanically-stabilized earth wall near Gate Canyon is designed to protect the road from high water erosion during runoff or storms.
It takes some doing to bring a 19th Century road up to 21st Century standards, but that's what is happening in Nine Mile Canyon.
"Anyone who hasn't driven through it doesn't understand the scale of the operation," commented Pam Miller, spokesperson for the Nine Mile Coalition at a meeting of the Nine Mile Road Cooperative Board Wednesday.
What's going on out there is a flow of heavy equipment traffic that includes not only the road building machines of W. W. Clyde, but also the trucks hauling everything necessary for Bill Barrett Corp.'s full-field gas development on the West Tavaputs Plateau.
The improvements 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.
As the work proceeds from east to west, the old dirt road is being graded and prepared for hard surfacing.
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 on schedule to be completed by December 2012, Brian Barton of Jones & DeMille Engineering informed the board.
Barton said the necessary right-of-way permits from the Bureau of Land Management and the School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration are secured. Cooperation with private landowners is also moving smoothly, he added.
The board is made up of representatives of Carbon and Duchesne county commissions, Bill Barrett Corp., the Nine Mile Coalition, Bureau of Land Management. It is also attended by Jones & DeMille engineers and staffs of the member agencies.
"We've been committed from the start to keep everybody in the loop," commented Carbon County Commissioner Mike Milovich, who was standing in for his colleague John Jones at this meeting. Noting that issues change as a project of this size moves along, Milovich said it's tough to predict or resolve problems at the start. "But if you want to sit down and talk it out, it can be done."
Miller paid compliments to Jones & DeMille and W. W. Clyde for the visible efforts they have been making on suppression of fugitive dust from construction and traffic. People have been looking for trouble spots and reporting them, she said.
In addition to water trucks, construction crews have also been coating the road with lignin sulfonate, a compound that binds dirt particles together on the road and holds down dust.
The dust issue is important because the ancient Native American rock art for which the canyon is famous could be damaged by it. The board approved a dust monitoring program Wednesday that is supposed to improve measurements.
Another precaution to prevent damage to the ancient treasures is a policy of stationing certified archaeological monitors to make sure the construction does not damage any existing or newly discovered sites.
"The things we've learned are transferrable," Miller said of the committee's work. "It's knowledge that we should be able to share with other counties or states."