Federal stimulus funding is being used this summer to support 120 workers doing maintenance projects on U.S. Forest Service roads in northern Utah.
With $11.6 million provided through the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, county and private sector crews in Wasatch, Utah, Cache, Juab and Box Elder counties are making needed repairs to 165 miles of roads on Forest Service lands.
Those funds are part of $1.15 billion allocated to the Forest Service through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
"All funding will be used to reduce the backlog of deferred road maintenance. All of the work will be completed through the counties," said Loyal Clark, spokeswoman for the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest. "Once we get the money in our budget, it goes directly to the counties."
Where it's very much welcomed.
"We might have had to look at layoffs if we didn't get this," said Wasatch County manager Mike Davis, citing the $3.2 million in aid his county is receiving for work on four roads -- Strawberry River, Co-Op Creek, Mill Hollow and Lake Creek -- around Strawberry Reservoir.
He said the money will support an estimated 32 jobs. A few are employees of a Wasatch County gravel pit supplying most road-repair materials. Most are county workers hauling the aggregate from near the base of Daniels Pass to the Strawberry Valley.
"We'll be hauling gravel all summer," Davis said. "This will keep all of our public works employees busy. And we actually have a couple of building inspectors who, because there's not much building going on, will be helping out, as well."
These roads were built over a 25-year period by the Forest Service and the Utah National Guard. But all have pockmarked surfaces needing repairs to be of "passenger car standard," said Clark.
"Maintaining access to these routes will continue to attract visitors to the area and renew customer satisfaction, resulting in business for food, lodging, travel supplies and other support services," she added.
Wasatch County's Davis concurred. "There's a lot of recreational use up there all summer, hikers and campers. "These are all roads that have needed work. It's nice to have the Forest [Service] paying us to do it for them."
Clark said the first project undertaken with stimulus funds was in Juab County. About 19 jobs are being supported with funds to refurbish the asphalt surface and rehabilitate shoulders of the upper stretch of a 12-mile road connecting the national Nebo Loop Scenic Byway to the Bear Canyon Campground.
Some of the money also will be used to eradicate invasive, noxious weeds such as Canadian thistle, spotted knapweed and dyer's woad.
Asphalt surfaces will be applied in Utah County to more heavily traveled roads in the Right Fork of Hobble Creek Canyon and Santaquin Canyon.
In Cache and Box Elder counties, work will focus on repairing fine-grained dirt roads rutted by rainstorms and runoff.
"We have a lot of forest roads in dire need of maintenance," said Cache County Roads Superintendent Darrell Erickson. "The Forest Service doesn't have the manpower to maintain them, so this will be a big boost to getting those roads graded and drivable.
"Every little bit helps," he added. "Cache County might as well get it as anyone else."