The Book Cliffs road proposal is rearing its ugly head again, and I hope that the residents of Grand County realize its repercussions.
It is rare in this day and age to have large swaths of land left unscathed by the impacts of our population; the Book Cliffs is one of those areas. I’m not stating that it is pristine wilderness, but it is a fairly special place.
To state that I oppose the building of this road is an understatement and here is a long list as to the reasons why. First, we already have many major highways running through the Book Cliffs in which to access the northern reaches of our state. Douglas Pass, outside of Loma, Colorado, is approximately 20 miles east of the proposed highway.
Secondly, this area, and specifically the canyon in which we propose running a major highway, is home to large quantities of big game, specifically in the winter. Elk, deer, bison and bighorn sheep abound. Big game and highways just don’t jive. Third, the building of Seep Ridge (Uintah County) has brought large quantities of people to this area, which inevitably has had major impacts on the big game and habitat of this region, our portion of the highway would only elevate those impacts.
Fourth, the estimates for building the road are extremely rough. The numbers estimated in the Bureau of Land Management’s Environmental Assessment in 2009, for the building of the southern portion of the highway, are roughly $6 million per mile, equal to approximately $246 million for the remaining 41 miles; however, this is just an estimate. East Canyon is an extremely tight canyon, winding its way through a wash of bentonite clay the entire way. To build and maintain such a highway would be an engineering feat.
Fifth, our county does not need additional tourists pouring in from Uintah County. I think we’re all good on the amount of tourism reaching our community.
Sixth, simply passing the cost of building this road to the state does not alleviate the taxpayer burden. I’m not an expert on UDOT funding, but from minimal research it looks like funding comes from legislative appropriations, sales tax and vehicle registration fees (that’s you and me paying for UDOT projects).
Seventh, I think the residents of Grand County should demand transparency from not only the Uintah County representatives, but also the Seven County Infrastructure Coalition at all times, which I don’t think we’ve received thus far.
I could keep going, but I think you’re getting the idea.
I’ll leave you with a little story. My brother and nephew come out each year to elk hunt and we camp at the top of Easy Canyon, nestled in the golden aspens, with a spring trickling nearby. At night we sit around a fire, telling stories about our day wandering the ridges of the Book Cliffs and listening to the faint bugles of bulls above camp. This area is too precious to disfigure.
We surely have better things to spend our hardearned tax dollars on, while at the same time keeping a wondrous part of our state somewhat wild. Stop the building of the Book Cliffs road.