Traffic concerns force new plan
Gunnison County is holding off on plans to chip seal a section of Kebler Pass Road, County Road 12, with hopes of keeping traffic from traveling any faster than it already does. And that was still too fast for one sheep-herding dog last week.
County director of public works Marlene Crosby says she was considering a paving project for the winding section of Kebler Pass road between Horse Ranch Park and the road to Lost Lake. Wet weather had kept things from moving forward. Then last week, someone hit and killed a sheep-herding dog in that area, sealing the fate of the project.
“There is increasing concern about speed and the different types of traffic [the road] is getting. Tractor trailer units are on the road quite a bit now,” Crosby says, “and we’ve been getting so much rain, we haven’t been able to get [that section of road] into the shape we wanted it in to chip seal.”
Part of the concern is coming from ranchers, like John Hotchkiss, who has had trouble with traffic when loading and unloading his sheep in the area. Hotchkiss also owned the dog that was killed.
“So we thought given those issues, we had talked with the Coal Creek Watershed Coalition [CCWC] about chip sealing a portion of Kebler, from the Irwin Y down to Splains Gulch,” Crosby said.
That section of road was one that CCWC was hoping to work with the county to improve to keep the dust and cadmium-containing magnesium chloride, used as a dust suppressant, out of the creek below Kebler Pass.
The CCWC got a Colorado Non-Point Source Grant this spring for more than $167,000 to help the group implement 10 “tasks”’ to improve the quality of the watershed.
The grant will add more than $24,000 to money the county already had from a Department of Local Affairs Energy Impact Assistance Grant to fund paving six miles of Kebler Pass Road.
CCWC coordinator Anthony Proponi says, “A riparian assessment showed us that the section of Kebler Pass Road by the ‘Irwin Y’ is an area of concern because of the proximity of creek to the road. Because there is a limited natural buffer, the magnesium chloride or sediment from the road doesn’t have anywhere to go except for directly into Coal Creek.”
In the riparian assessment Dr. Kevin Alexander of Gunnison-based Bio-Environs also identified five problem areas in the watershed and the two-mile section below the Irwin Y was one of them.
A group of engineers told the CCWC that because of the narrow area between the road and the creek, physical mitigation measures might be hard to pull off as well, and that the best solution would be a permanent surface on the road.
And Crosby is happy to see the extra money coming in to help her department complete its own task. Just two miles of the six miles paid for by the 2007 Energy Assistance Grant have been completed to date.
“Since that is a section of good visibility there are not the safety issues that we had in the section past Horse Ranch Park and because it would protect the wetland environment we’d like to get that done. So if it ever quits raining, it might be this year that we get to it,” concluded Crosby.