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Preserving the 'longest art gallery' is not cheap

Low spots were water flows during runoff or storms are protected from erosion damage by concrete sections of pavement.

By By JOHN SERFUSTINI Sun Advocate associate editor

Tab for protecting 9 Mile during road building - $698,000 for the first year

As snow and sub-zero temperatures have stopped major construction activity on the Nine Mile Canyon road for the year, it was time to bring the road's Cooperative Board up to speed on what has been done so far.

So Brian Barton and Garrett McMullin of Jones & DeMille Engineering, armed with PowerPoint and projector, did just that at Tuesday's meeting.

Moving westward from Cottonwood Canyon, W. W. Clyde road builders have advanced as far as Harmon Canyon. Grading, drainage, erosion protection and the like have so far expended roughly $5.5 million of the $21 million projected budget.

Included in that figure is $698,000 for "compliance costs" - the term used to describe what it takes to protect the environment and the ancient Native American art and archaeology in what has been dubbed "The World's Longest Outdoor Art Gallery."

Dust control and archaeological monitoring make up the bulk of that spending. Lignin sulfonate - a chemical that binds dust particles in place - was $240,000 alone.

Watering and other dust control measures added a bit more that $100,000 to that.

Aside from abating the nuisance of dust for visitors and ranchers in the canyon, the measure is also intended the protect the primitive pictographs from damage.

Speaking of canyon art and other remnants of prehistoric settlement, cultural monitoring - the cost of hiring certified archaeologists from Montgomery Archaeological Consultants of Moab - was $258,000.

That produced a payoff in that three new sites have been discovered. Pam Miller, a USU Eastern archaeologist and board representative from the Nine Mile Coalition explained after the meeting that they are pit houses.

While neither the Bureau of Land Management nor the archaeologists want the locations made public until the sites can be studied and protected, Miller said the sites could advance understanding of Fremont Indian life.

The remnants were found under two to five feet of earth that was being moved.

"Work stops 100 feet from a site, and W. W. Clyde moves on to other things," McMulllin told the board.

While the heavy equipment will be idled for the winter, some work on clearing and grubbing will continue.

Plans call for full-scale work to begin again at the beginning of April.

The engineers said work should move more swiftly for several reasons.

First, work will be able to done from both ends of the roadway instead of just the east.

Also, the odds of finding anything of archaeological significance decline as the project moves westward.

Traffic is also lighter in the western section past Harmon Canyon, so work should proceed more smoothly.

Projected completion date for the construction is still December 2012.

Carbon County Commissioiner John Jones, chairman of the committee, relayed compliments to all involved in the construction.

"I have run into local ranchers and tourists who have told me that it's good not to have to worry about tires any more," he said. "I think this is great for the future, not just for energy development but for tourism."

The road improvements stem from the full-field natural gas development on the West Tavaputs Plateau. Bill Barrett Corp.'s drilling and infrastructure activities rely on the Nine Mile Canyon Road for worker and equipment transportation.

BBC agreed to fund half the project cost, with the rest contributed by the state and entities in Carbon and Duchesne counties.

The Nine Mile Canyon Road Board was created to bring all interests in the construction and use of the road to the same table. It includes representatives from the two counties, the energy industry, the Nine Mile Canyon Coalition and the BLM.

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