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The San Juan County Commission approved work on the West Summit road, accepted the resignation of County Clerk/Auditor John David Nielson, and provided comment on a mining remediation project near Fry Canyon at their July 6 meeting.

On July 6, Commissioners approved a bid for work on West Summit road, with federal funds helping to pay the bill. 

The full-depth reclamation stabilization is taking place on a 16-mile stretch of road located north of Highway 491 near the Colorado border east of Monticello. 

West Summit road is County Road 373 but is listed on Google maps as County Road 313.

County Road Superintendent TJ Adair shared that many people have moved east of Monticello, and the West Summit road is used as a school bus route.

“If you have driven down, it is potholed, it is falling apart,” said Adair. “That road was built on clay, and it is a treacherous road.”

Because the road is used as a school bus route, the county has been able to earmark federal funds to help with the project.

The project is being completed in two eight-mile segments with the first eight miles to be completed in late summer 2021 at a cost of $1.4 million. The bid came in $100,000 under the county budget.

Commissioner Bruce Adams explained that West Summit Road has seen increased use in the past 15 years.

“A lot of the use was truck traffic coming from La Sal hauling logs to Mancos, [CO],” said Adams. “The road wasn’t built for a lot of truck traffic, and that’s what initially started to break up the road.

“Then, when the copper mine opened, we started getting traffic to the copper mine. It’s just a convenient road that a lot of people use.”

Adams said efforts to place weight limits on the road received pushback from citizens with the result being continued damage to the road. 

The commission unanimously approved the contract with Coughlin Company, with work scheduled to begin in August.

The commission also shared their thanks to County Clerk/Auditor John David Nielson. Nielson submitted his resignation to the commission on June 23 with July 14 being his last day in office.

In his resignation letter, Nielson told the commission, “I feel that it is the right thing to do for myself and for my family as I move on to the next chapter of my life.”

Nielson has accepted a job at an accounting firm in Spanish Fork, UT.

All three commissioners and County Administrator Mack McDonald thanked Nielson for his six years in office.

Because the Clerk/Auditor role is an elected position, Nielson’s replacement will be selected by the San Juan County Republican Party. A letter was sent to County GOP chair Kim Henderson to notify her of the vacancy. 

The party nominee will be appointed to serve as Clerk/Auditor through the end of Nielson’s unexpired term, with an election to be held in November 2022.

The commission also sent comments to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) regarding mining remediation in Fry Canyon.

The BLM Monticello Field Office is currently working with the Utah BLM Office to mitigate the mill site at Fry Canyon, a historic mining area located about 60 miles west of Blanding.

An Engineering Evaluation/Cost Analysis analyzed removal action alternatives for the Fry Canyon Tailings Site.

The site was used to process copper and uranium ore in the 1960s. The BLM says testing of the tailings pond shows unacceptable risk levels for multiple hazardous materials, including arsenic, lead, and uranium.

The analysis offers three remediation options designed to reduce the risk to human and ecological receptors, to reduce potential for off-site migration of contaminants, and to reduce the leaching potential of the contaminants that are adjacent to Fry Creek.

Options include no action, containment with a concrete cap at a cost of $3 million, and covering the contaminants with a six-inch soil cover at a cost of $1.3 million. The third option is the preferred alternative of the BLM.

The BLM sought public comment during a 30-day period from June 3 to July 3. Sandy and Gail Johnson, neighbors to the project, asked for no action on the site.

The Johnsons run cattle on the nearby White Canyon Grazing Allotment. They also have a home and a well near the area.

While the Johnsons hoped for no action on the site, they have added concerns about the source of the topsoil if the third option is pursued by the BLM.

Scarring of the land and possible erosion where topsoil is taken are among their concerns with the third option.

The county commission approved comments on the project, supporting the mitigation efforts.

They ask if option three is selected, that the topsoil removal avoid erosion, with considerations to the Johnson livestock grazing operation, water supply, and residence.

San Juan Record

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