From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 6, Number 30 - October 19, 2006
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Alternate anticline access debated

by Cat Urbigkit

Tuesday, Oct. 17, the Sublette County Commission’s meeting room filled with residents there to listen and participate in a discussion about industrial traffic in Pinedale.

Town of Pinedale Mayor Steve Smith and Pinedale Planning and Zoning Commissioner Paul Rock explained that the town P&Z has recommended that the town council adopt an ordinance that would ban trucks weighing over 26,000 pounds on the streets of Pinedale. Rock explained that the focus of the proposal is to get heavy truck traffic off Tyler Avenue and to help to push an alternate access route for the Mesa.

It was noted that if the town were to simply impose a ban on heavy truck traffic on Tyler, traffic would be redirected to use other town streets, so the ordinance, if adopted, would be broader.

Smith explained that he wanted to meet with the commission to hear its views of the issue before the town takes action, since the county will experience impacts from the decision.

Commission Chair Betty Fear explained to the group that the commission has worked for six years to try to find another access route, from a proposed bridge across the New Fork River, expanding an existing two-track road north from Boulder and creating a new road from the Pinedale Industrial Site, to crossing Pine Creek with a new southern route. The commission had met with obstacles for each proposal, including concern for wildlife migration routes and seasonal ranges.

Commissioner John Linn agreed with Fear’s statement, adding the commission has run into “so many stone walls” even though “just about every rock’s been turned over” in trying to find access routes.

“I’ve ground to a halt on this thing,” Linn said.

Fear noted that the commission has talked to numerous people about this issue, including approaching several private landowners about their properties. Fear noted that although some people have suggested the commission look at condemning private property, Fear said she opposes that notion.

“I can say it’s not going to happen on my watch” Fear said.

Commissioner Bill Cramer agreed that the issue of access is a major problem, but said, “It’s a problem for industry.”

Cramer said the Bureau of Land Management needs to be part of the solution, but “they have all sorts of reasons why they won’t allow another road to go south of town.” Industry representatives pointed out there is a need to use Tyler in the winter when the gates are closed for access to the top of Mesa. In the winter, it’s about the only option, but activity is greatly decreased in winter months.

“I think we need to look at this in a little bigger picture,” Linn said, noting his view that Highway 351 and the southern portion of the Mesa is impacted with high traffic counts. He suggested that water hauling is generating a lot of truck trips.

It was noted that a supplemental environmental impact statement for industrial development on the Pinedale Anticline will soon be released, and that SEIS includes a liquid gathering system that will alleviate a lot of truck traffic. It was estimated that the system would eliminate about 140,000 truck trips per year, but it would take until about 2009 until that system is online.

Independent county commission candidate Judi Adler asked commissioners if the town were to move forward with its ordinance, would the commission oppose it?

Fear responded, “Personally I would be opposed to the town doing that,” adding that as a commissioner, she doesn’t think the county has much say in the matter.

Fear said instituting a ban “puts the problem somewhere else, in some other part of the county.”

Linn said he feels the same as Fear, adding that in banning truck traffic, “all of a sudden sudden, you throw your problem away.”

Cramer said that in his view, “the town has every right to put whatever restrictions they want on their streets,” but the solution lies in a long-term alternative access.

“It is a problem looking for a solution,” Cramer said.

Bill Lanning of the BLM said there are several possibilities, but added, “Is there a solution that jumps right out and says, ‘This is it?’ No.”

Cramer said if the decision were his to make, “the people migration routes are more important than the animal migration routes,” noting that he has no say over public land.

Smith said the town ordinance is in the works, adding, “the town will continue to work for a viable option.”

Fear noted that the county has offered to establish a new road, but needs a place to put it.

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