By unanimous vote, the Carbon County Commission resolved Wednesday to acquire by eminent domain a road maintenance right-of-way from Nine Mile Canyon landowner Michael Carlson.
Commission attorney Christian Bryner said that repeated negotiations with Carlson have failed. He went on to explain that the county meets the legal requirements for the action. First, the road that traverses parts of Carlson's property has been a public right-of-way since 1897.
Second, it can be demonstrated that there is a public need for maintenance. This was explained by County Engineer Curtis Page, who said that sections of the road need upgrading to mitigate dust and to protect against flood damage. Commissioner John Jones agreed, noting that at some points he has seen tires sinking in dust.
"There's no question about maintaining the road to higher standards than it has been," Jones said. Bryner added that the state's Permanent Community Impact Board has recognized the need for improvements along the road by agreeing to fund part of the $21 million project.
The road has seen increasing heavy truck traffic as a result of natural gas production on the Tavaputs Plateau. Meanwhile, ranchers, hunters and tourists also frequent the canyon.
Page said that the proposed improvements to the road would not only improve safety and dust suppression, but would also probably benefit the landowner by making farming easier. The maintenance right-of-way would allow workers to clear channels for irrigation and flood control. The acquisition would also settle questions about boundaries and reduce conflicts in the future.