Nine-Mile Canyon is home to priceless rock art – thousands of Native American petroglyphs on the canyon walls. But it’s also a major transportation route for oil and gas development in eastern Utah.
The road through Nine-Mile Canyon has just recently been graded and surfaced with a seal coat and gravel. The hard surface actually protects the petroglyphs from dust kicked up by passing trucks. Yesterday, the state's Community Impact Board approved $9.75 million dollars in grants and a $6.75 million dollar loan to allow Carbon County to put standard asphalt pavement on 34 miles of the road.
Carbon County Commissioner John Jones says that will help protect the $24 million investment that's already been made. And he says it’s possible the road will get a lot of use in the future from big trucks hauling crude oil from the Uintah Basin to a new refinery in Green River.
“I’m not gonna say that it won’t happen," Jones said. "That is a county road. It’s a public road all the way through. There’s no way I can see that we could actually go up there and say, ‘You can come through but you can’t.’”
“It puts the landscape at risk," Spangler tells KUER. "I mean, is it going to cause direct damage to rock art, having these trucks go back and forth? Probably not. But does it affect the cultural landscape? And that’s something that has to be considered here.”
The road in Nine-Mile Canyon is used by both visitors and drilling companies moving equipment to the gas fields on the Tavaputs Plateau. But the low price of natural gas has reduced traffic because there’s much less drilling going on.
(Note: This version updates the grant amounts to Carbon County from the Community Impact Board.)