Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
(Al Hartmann | Tribune file photo) Bill Barrett Corporation water trucks make their way along the dirt road in Nine Mile Canyon. Just above the road are hundreds of examples of rock art that can be impacted by the dust thrown up by the large trucks.
Carbon County wants to pave Nine Mile Canyon road
$5M project » Critics express concerns, say the real goal is hauling oil.
First Published Jul 12 2013 01:01 am • Last Updated Dec 07 2013 11:35 pm

Carbon County officials are looking for state funding to pave 34 miles of roadway through Nine Mile Canyon, home to ancient Fremont rock art and an industrial conduit serving a now-dormant drilling complex.

While Carbon and Duchesne counties say the project is needed to serve natural gas operations on the West Tavaputs Plateau, preservationists believe the real goal is to open a new route for hauling Uinta Basin oil to a proposed refinery near Green River.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Utah’s Community Impact Fund Board on Thursday advanced a $5 million funding request for the project’s first 11-mile phase to its priority list for consideration in October.

The county road, which leaves U.S. Highway 6 at Wellington, passes through an area rich in cultural resources and ancient rock art, which earns Nine Mile Canyon the nickname of "World’s Longest Art Gallery."

Officials say the paving project is needed to reduce maintenance costs and improve access to approved gas-drilling projects held by the Bill Barrett Corp. and Gasco Energy. Yet neither company is actively drilling in the face of depressed natural gas prices. Meanwhile, Carbon County has just completed a $20 million surface-hardening project needed to protect the canyon’s petroglyphs from road dust kicked up by truck traffic.

If Duchesne County paves the Gate Canyon Road south out of Myton, tanker trucks may soon have a fully paved shot to U.S. Highway 6, noted Dennis Willis, a board member of the preservation group Nine Mile Canyon Coalition.

"There is a concern of increased oil traffic. The concern is Gate and Nine Mile canyons will become a haul route to move waxy crude," he said.

Messages left with Carbon County commissioners weren’t returned Thursday. In papers filed with the Community Impact Fund Board, officials made no mention of oil shipments, instead focusing on Barrett and Gasco’s natural gas operations. This board disperses oil and gas revenue to municipalities for projects designed to address the impacts of energy development. The plan is to pave the road in three phases starting with the 11 miles above Soldier Creek Mine.

"This roadway is critical to both counties due to the significant benefits of natural gas development, cultural resources and other potential developments in the region," wrote Duchesne County official Edmund Bench Jr. in a May 29 letter to the impact board. Other papers say Barrett is "aggressively" drilling 80 to 90 wells a year on the Tavaputs, yet the company suspended drilling there a year ago after sinking about 200 wells in the first two years. Gasco, saddled with financial difficulties, has yet to start drilling.

Officials characterized the surface-hardening project as an initial phase of the road upgrade, which will cost another $17 million to cover in asphalt.


story continues below
story continues below

Bolstering the case that the project is about oil are recent reports from the Utah Department of Transportation, predicting a shortage of road space to move oil produced in the Uinta Basin.

A Myton-to-Wellington route through Nine Mile could alleviate truck traffic on U.S. Highways 40 and 191. But it would also further industrialize one of Utah’s special places, according to Jerry Spangler, executive director of the Colorado Plateau Archaeological Alliance.

"That would sacrifice the cultural resources for industry because people wouldn’t be able to enjoy them," said the expert in Nine Mile archaeology.

Spangler, who travels the 35 mph road about 25 times a year, says it appears to be in good shape and he has never seen a county road maintenance crew there.

Willis said he has seen vehicles traveling 70 mph on this road and suspects commercial haulers are already using it to avoid the port of entry and inspection station on U.S. 6.

"There is zero enforcement," he said.

To win approval for the West Tavaputs project in 2010, Barrett agreed to cover half the cost of the surface-hardening project. But county officials now say the 3/4-inch seal was never meant to be a permanent solution and truck traffic is taking a toll on the road.

bmaffly@sltrib.com



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.