Commission finalizes board appointments, discusses roads
Appointments to a board in Spanish Valley, a regional transportation plan, and roads from La Sal to Navajo Mountain were all part of the San Juan County Commission on April 6.
The commission finalized appointments to the Spanish Valley Special Service District (SVSSD).
Openings on county boards are reviewed by standing members of the board, who recommend applicants to fill open seats to the county commission.
Board members Frank Darcy, Lloyd Wilson, and Mike Bynum were recommended by the board when their terms expired at the end of 2020, but several Spanish Valley residents advocated for David Focardi and Monette Clark to be appointed to the board.
The San Juan County Commission rejected the recommendation of the SVSSD with votes by Commissioners Kenneth Maryboy and Willie Grayeyes.
At the April 6 commission meeting, County Administrator Mack McDonald recommended that Frank Darcy, Lloyd Wilson, and David Focardi be appointed to the board. The commission unanimously approved the appointment.
Darcy has been on the board since 2006 and serves as the chair. Wilson, who has been on the board since 2012, is the water operator and is contracted to perform bookkeeping and operations.
Focardi is new to the board but comes with professional experience as a field biologist and geologist with 25 years of professional experience.
The Commission also discussed a proposed U.S. Forest Service rehabilitation project in the La Sal Mountains and its potential impact on two roads.
The proposed Beaver Creek Restoration project would rehabilitate an area where a dirt road crosses Beaver Creek about six miles northeast of the town of La Sal.
The Forest Service says frequent crossing of the creek has resulted in erosion that has altered the path of the creek. As a result, a few mitigations are being proposed.
Improvements are planned for one road (FS road 4731) to allow for machinery to access the site and use road fill on the eroded road section, as well as install three beaver analog dams, which are man-made imitations of beaver dams.
Another part of the project would place a gate at the head of FS roads 4732 and 4733 (listed in the county transportation plan as county roads D5307 and D5308).
The gate would close public access to the two roads. One is about one half-mile in length and the other about one and a half miles. Both roads end at small ponds used for irrigation and livestock use.
The administrative designation would allow access for personnel who need to maintain water rights.
The commission will send a letter to the Forest Service stating support for the improvement of FS road 4731 and the beaver analog dams.
The letter will question the necessity of the two administrative access-only roads once the other aspects of the project are complete. The county also offers to pool resources to keep the roads open to the public.
Forest Service Deputy District Ranger Louis “Ted” Neff, of the Monticello/Moab Ranger District, said the Forest Service is meeting with the county to find a solution that works for both entities.
“The specific engineering technique that we’re going to use is the most low-cost one that could be devised,” said Neff. “We are currently working with San Juan County to potentially have a more robust road crossing there, that would allow us to achieve our goals, and then we would not need to close the roads.
“That’s something that we’re working on right now, and that’s the crux of the matter for us.”
The commission approved the letter with a directive to continue meeting with the Forest Service regarding the matter.
Commissioners also received a report on the collaborative regional transportation plan. The plan is a collaboration between San Juan County, the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT), Grand County, Moab City, and the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA).
The need for a transportation plan came out of recent and anticipated growth in the area. Work on the regional transportation plan began in April 2020, with the identification of transportation challenges, discussions of potential solutions, and a draft list of projects to address the issues through the year 2050.
San Juan County committed $5,000 to the plan, which is a smaller contribution in comparison to other participating entities. San Juan County is represented in a steering group by Commissioner Bruce Adams, Natalie Randall who had been the county economic and tourism director, Sean and Nancy Campbell of St. Dane’s Cabins, and Ryan Holyoak representing LeGrand Johnson Construction.
A copy of the draft plan can be found online at https://arcg.is/TOvSP
Issues of congestion, truck traffic, safety, and lack of transit are among issues identified in the plan. The plan identifies 90 potential solutions and narrows that list to a recommended 14 projects for the area.
The largest identified project – and most controversial for Moab and Grand County officials – is a Moab bypass road. A bypass would allow trucks and others traveling through the area to bypass Moab’s busy downtown via a designated roadway.
Pushback from potentially impacted communities and elected officials resulted in the plan saying that a bypass would only be pursued if community support were to build and if other traffic mitigation measures do not alleviate congestion.
The alignment or route of a potential bypass is not identified in the plan but would likely require a second bridge to cross the Colorado River.
The plan also discusses projects that would more directly impact northern San Juan County.
One project under consideration would see frontage roads run along Highway 191 in Spanish Valley and could possibly see the addition of stoplights along the Highway 191 intersections with the Old Spanish Trail Arena, Spanish Trail Road, and Mill Creek Drive, as well as other intersections.
The suggested frontage roads would be on both sides of the highway. The plan states a frontage road would allow for safer driveway access for commercial and residential driveways that currently have direct access to the highway.
The project would allow these side roads to tie into a frontage road which would connect to 191 in a few areas. The plan says it would improve safety and decrease congestion.
The frontage road project is recommended in two phases and would run from Mill Creek to South Spanish Valley.
Phase one would include intersections at Mill Creek Drive, Resource Boulevard, and Spanish Trail Road.
Phase two would include intersection upgrades at Meador Drive, Sunny Acres Lane, and Old Airport Road.
The estimated project cost would be $112 million, with the two phases planned to be completed by 2040.
Another project in the plan would create a trail system that would run along Spanish Valley Drive. The system would stretch from Mill Creek Drive to Coronoado Street.
The cost for that project is estimated to be $8.5 million, with completion recommended by 2030.
An additional previously planned project by UDOT is also recommended in the plan.
The upgrade would add northbound passing lanes on Highway 191 for a one-and-a-half-mile stretch starting just before Wilson Arch and ending near Looking Glass Road turnoff.
A shuttle from the area to the Wasatch Front and Grand Junction, additional signage, and other projects specific to Moab and Grand County are also in the plan.
The commission passed a resolution stating their support of the Diné Atiin Bahane: Navajo Road Emergence – The Navajo Nation White Paper 2021.
The document was written by the Navajo Nation and asks federal partners to support the Navajo Nation efforts to maintain and upgrade roads on the Navajo Nation.
In commission reports, Commissioner Grayeyes alerted the commission of a meeting regarding the proposed road between Oljato and Navajo Mountain to occur in Navajo Mountain on April 29.