Duchesne County looks to open a path for oil tankers through the rock art-famous Nine Mile Pass in Utah

A renewed proposal to realign and pave a remote route out of the Uinta Basin could lead to a busy route for oil tankers. Nine Mile Canyona famous rock art destination in Utah.

The Bureau of Land Management is now considering a petition from the Duchesne County Service District to punch a new 5.2-mile stretch of Wells Draw Road down the dirt road. Canyon Gateeffectively connecting the oil fields near Myton to rail loading facilities on the Union Pacific tracks at Wellington.

By providing a faster connection between Duchesne and Carbon counties than U.S. Highway 191, the upgraded route is expected to attract up to 1,000 vehicles per day, half of which are trucks, according to proposal submitted by Duchesne County Special Services District No. 2. The no The prospect of hundreds of tankers heading up and down Nine Mile Canyon sounds good to some of the elected leaders in Carbon County.

“The idea that anyone would allow this kind of development within Carbon County’s most important tourism resource is an affront to those of us who work so hard to attract visitors and attention to our world-famous attractions,” said canyon tour guide and conservationist Layne. Miller, who sits on the Bryce City Council. “Frankly, tourists and tankers don’t mix.”

Known as the “world’s longest art gallery” – which is well over 9 miles long – Nine Mine Canyon is filled with thousands of petroglyphs carved into the canyon walls by the Native Americans who inhabited the area centuries ago. Conservationists fear that the Gate Canyon proposal would endanger the canyon’s rock art and other artifacts and destroy the canyon as a tourist destination.

the BLM has initiated an environmental review for the project and is accepting Scoping Comments on its design until February 8th.

(Christopher Sherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

The road through Nine Mile Canyon was paved about a decade ago to serve the nearby gas wells on the Tavaputs Plateau, but that traffic is light compared to what the Monument Butte oil field near Myton can generate. Oil production from this and other Uinta fields is currently trucked along federal highways to refineries in Salt Lake City and to rail loading facilities in Helper and Wellington.

The Gate Canyon project will create an attractive alternative to the 80-mile Myton-to-Wellington trek for truckers destined for rail loads operated by Savage Services and Price River Terminal.

However, facilitating the transportation of oil is not the project’s main purpose, according to Rodger Ames, who chairs the Special Service District’s board of directors. The primary goal is to ensure connectivity between Carbon and Duchesne counties when US Highway 191 through Indian Canyon is blocked, he said in a phone interview after the council voted to advance the project in September.

But officials with the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) said prolonged road closures due to accidents or rockfalls are rare in Indian Canyon.

The highway through Indian Canyon is sometimes closed due to winter weather, but such closures are also likely to occur in Gate Canyon.

In September, the service district submitted a funding proposal to the Utah Community Impact Board (CIB), which distributes federal mineral proceeds to local governments for projects that address impacts associated with mineral extraction. The Commercial International Bank (CIB) has so far reviewed this application.

a An earlier attempt by Duchesne County to secure state funding for Gate Canyon It met resistance from its coal-producing neighbor to the south. Co-founded the counties of Carbon and Duchesne Seven County Infrastructure Alliance To promote projects, such as the proposed Uinta Basin Railroad, to bring mineral production in eastern Utah to market.

Alliance member counties are usually on the same page when it comes to “throughput” projects, such as highways to transport oil and coal, but that wasn’t the case with the proposed upgrade to Gate Canyon.

(Al Hartmann | Salt Lake Tribune) Water trucks make their way along a dirt road in Nine Mile Canyon in 2010.

At a coalition board meeting last year, County Carbon Committee Chairman Casey Hobbs said heavy tanker traffic would cause significant erosion on the Nine Mile Road. The road was not designed for tankers, and is largely used by tourists and locals to access rock art sites. He said that his town will bear the negative effects of the oil movement, while it is witnessing little economic upswing.

According to Miller, Nine Mile embodies the carbon county’s efforts to diversify its economy away from fossil fuel development. For the first time in generations, Carbon County’s mines failed last year to produce the one ton of carbonate rock it’s known for, while the county invested in making Nine Miles more visitor-friendly in an effort to boost the tourism economy.

said Miller, co-founder Nine Mile Canyon Alliance. “Once the locals see that rock art generates taxes and all that sort of thing, then it becomes important. And that’s what happens in Nine Mile.”

Meanwhile, the BLM has revived its long-stalled efforts to formulate and implement an interpretive plan for the canyon.

But the presence of tankers darting between the oil wells and the railways would seriously disrupt the way people currently enjoy the valley.

“The Nine Mile is still one of those places where you have to be careful when driving through. If you come around a corner there will be a sedan with all four doors open, and people outside the car looking downhill,” said Miller. “You know how fast he can drive.” oil men. And it will not stop one of the loaded oil tankers in the near future.”

The Duchesne County plan targets the southernmost 6 miles of Wells Draw Road, where it connects to Nine Mile Canyon. It will smooth, broaden and straighten the part that currently follows the winding lower part of Gate Canyon, and shorten the leg by a mile. Built in accordance with American Highway and State Transportation Association guidelines, its design speed will be 40 mph and the grade will not exceed 9%, according to the county’s proposal.

The northern half of the part intersects with federal lands, while the southern half lies on state trust lands. The correct road width may vary from 80 to 350 feet.

“Some parts of the road are in relatively flat areas and the required widths are narrower,” the proposal states. “However, much of the road is in a valley, which requires larger cuts and shims, and thus a wider right-of-way is required to meet safety standards.”

The project includes parking for two of the proposed interpretive trails in Gate Canyon, providing access to a historic trolley road.

Increased industrial traffic may require upgrading the Nine Mile Road, which could endanger the countless rock art paintings located off the paved surface, according to Kent Williams, president of the Utah Rock Art Research Association.

“That same proximity of the rock art to the road provides the opportunity for people to appreciate and enjoy the imagery in a relatively natural setting,” said Williams. “The constant stream of semitrucks with noise and diesel exhaust would degrade the experience. Nine Mile Canyon is a one-of-a-kind outdoor museum with world-class rock art. Surely there is a better alternative to a hydrocarbon highway.”

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