Nielson Construction completes Quitchupah Creek Road
After close to 19 years of planning, permitting and construction the Quitchupah Creek road is now open. A ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the occasion was held on Sept. 6 at the SUFCO coal mine. After the ribbon cutting a tour of the road was followed by a program and lunch at the intersection of Quitchupah Creek Road and SR-10.
Nielson Construction was the contractor for the job and they began construction in April 2012. The Quitchupah Creek road was the largest road construction project in Nielson Construction history.
The 11 mile Quitchupah Creek Road construction project linking State Route 10 to SUFCO Mine in Sevier County was a huge undertaking.
The Sevier County Special Service District #1 project was conceived more than a decade ago as a shorter route for coal truck traffic from SUFCO Mine to access the power plants in Emery County. Coal trucks currently travel along Acord Lakes Road, down Interstate 70 and then up SR-10 to the power plants. It's a six day a week train of trucks on the roadway.
The Quitchupah Creek Road will cut the distance traveled by nearly 50 miles each way for the coal trucks, as well as for many of the coal miners who live in the Emery and Carbon county areas. The road will be open to public access when completed.
The $25.2 million project created a two-lane roadway. The construction crews excavated 1,150,000 yards of earth and 400,000 tons of rock, roughly the equivalent of moving a mountain one-half mile squared.
"That's what we do," said Mark Greenhalgh, vice president of operations for Nielson Construction, who served as Quitchupah Creek Road project manager. Brent Anderson was the construction manager on the project. Hugh Christiansen ran a pipe crew and a trackhoe on the project.
For the Quitchupah Road, Nielson Construction devoted as many as 80 employees to the project for a year and a half and as many as 35 pieces of heavy equipment blazed a trail for the road. The heavy equipment operators enjoyed the challenge of building the road in the rugged terrain. "This is 11 miles of new road across basically virgin country. This doesn't happen much anymore," Greenhalgh said.
One major obstacle for the construction project was at Water Hollow, which required a double 14 foot diameter pipe and 100 feet worth of fill to be able to span.
Work crews excavated the roadway from both the SR-10 side and the SUFCO side, but Greenhalgh indicated that most of the road excavation was accomplished from the mine site as they built the road toward SR-10.
The ribbon cutting ceremony was held at the junction where the Quitchupah road intersects the mine road. Sevier County Commissioner Gary Mason welcomed everyone to the event. He said, "This is a big event. We're excited that a lot of people are here. It was questionable whether we'd be standing here today. Last week we took four trucks down the road and Sen. Okerlund attended because he couldn't be here today. We're thankful for the many partners we've had on this job. The county commission, SUFCO mine, the special service district." Mason thanked Keith Burnett from the CIB who retired last week for his help with the funding package for the road. "I can't say enough good things about Nielson Construction and Jones and Demille. The plans were not complete for the road when construction began in April 2012. The project came in on time and on budget. This road was built from scratch over virgin country and we didn't know what was out there. We're here today, it's on time and on budget. It's miraculous."
Mason also thanked the BLM and the forest service for their help with the project. The ribbon was cut to officially open the road. The group traveled down the road together where they stopped four times to discuss various aspects of the project.
Ken May from SUFCO mine thanked everyone for coming. At the first stop Greenhalgh the project manager spoke about the Water Hollow crossing. found a man's name on a rock that said 1926. There's a two track road up the bottom of the canyon which would have been the easiest route to follow but the BLM disallowed that route because of the archaeological value of that area.
The crew excavated and stabilized the site. The careful work on this section added 19 days to the project. There are some grades on the road between 8.4-8.6. At the Water Hollow spot the fill is 112 feet deep. Greenhalgh said as they worked on that trouble spot, three flash floods went through during the construction. The crossing also has 180 yards of concrete to keep materials secure.
Another unique aspect of the project was the special attention paid to deer, elk and cattle crossings. The five wildlife crossings added considerable cost to the project-$600,000.
The Contech Engineering Solutions company helped with the design of the crossings. The project also placed water tanks for the stock and wildlife in the area as part of the permitting requirements.
At the second stop May showed the tour where SUFCO mine was high on the mountain top. The mine started in 1941 and has mined a broad area of the mountain. In that time an estimated 170 million ton of coal have been mined and brought economic advantage to this area. In 2012, 6 million ton was mined and one of the highest years was 7.9 million ton in 2006. It's the largest single long wall producer of coal in the nation. Eight hundred loads of coal per day leave the mine site. Some travel to the Emery County side and some south. It's the oldest continuously mined operation in the state. It takes a lot of trucks to handle the coal.
Lindon Pratt from Jones and DeMille engineering spoke of the many areas that had to be cut and filled. In one area the road was built over an old river channel. This area was a 70 ft. fill and an 84 inch pipe was installed to carry the water. A retaining wall was also built in this area. All of the rock and dirt that went into that fill would fill the BYU LaVell Edwards Stadium. From the mine site to the bottom of the road approximately 11 miles there is a 1,400 feet elevation drop and most of that occurs in 1.5 miles of the road. During the project at least 20 Jones and DeMille employees worked on the project at various times.
After the tour the group gathered at the bottom of the road for a steak dinner prepared by Jon Judd's catering. Rep. Kay McIff spoke after lunch saying how the project would benefit Emery and Sevier counties in numerous ways. "It's been a cooperative effort for the miners, truckers and the economies of both counties," said McIff.
Kary Monroe from Jones and DeMille said a conversation first took place in 1994 regarding how nice it would be to get a road from the mine site to connect with SR-10. They began looking at maps. There was a two-track road where they wanted the road to go. They walked it and flagged it. They started the NEPA process with the forest service and BLM and went through the processes to get clearance for the road. The artifacts and writings and pit houses in that area stopped the project at that point.
By taking the project through Water Hollow those sites were missed. The elevation was high and it was a longer distance to keep a flat grade. With the new alignment the arch processes had to start over. The Indian tribes and the DWR were included. "After this 19 year period working with the forest service, the BLM, the county and the mine; everyone stuck with it and said, 'let's go.' From the time of the record of decision, it's been five years. The mine had to secure long term coal contracts before the funding of $28 million would be released from the CIB. Things came together and the CIB was able to fund the entire project. We lacked one permit from the Army Corp. of Engineers and Sen. Hatch and Rep. Chaffetz put some pressure on them to get that permit issued and the project was ready for bid. I'm not sure what to do now that the project is over, we've been working on it for so long. It's a great thing, thanks to the county and to the mine for allowing us to be part of this project," said Monroe.
May said he's been involved since 1995 on the project and this week the project came to fruition as the trucks began to roll down the new road. The story started in 1941 with Vernal Mortensen starting the mine and bringing coal out in wheel barrows and loading pick-up trucks to today where 800 trucks a day visit the mine. "SUFCO mine has really grown. We received the Sentinel of Safety award in 2010 and 2012," said May.
Many people were involved in the project over the years including John Byars, Weston Norris and Keith Bigelow. Many people at the county level and the special service district. May mentioned he has developed a special friendship working with Mark Greenhalgh from Nielson Construction that will last the rest of his life. Nielson Construction was very cooperative to get the job done. "This project is an example of what people can get done when working together," said May.
Wayne Nielson from Nielson Construction said he is proud to be a part of this project. He's proud of his team and the work they did to complete the project on time and on budget. "It was difficult and challenging building a road through a mountain. It was no easy task, it was hard on equipment and tires and the undercarriages of the equipment. We had some high maintenance costs with this project. But, we are proud to say we have the very best people who work at our company. I want to thank my father John Nielson who started this company. I appreciate Mark Greenhalgh and the hours of preparation he put into this job. He always came through the challenges and obstacles. We had 190 people who worked on this project at various times. We used 1,150,000 gallons of diesel fuel and moved 2 million cubic yards of materials," said Nielson. Nielson also thanked his son John Nielson, Eric Luke who put the bid together, Tom Bunnell, Shawn Ward and Ryan Johansen who did the maintenance. It was a company-wide effort. "I'm grateful to be a part of this project. This road will benefit our area for many years to come.
Derek Miller the governors chief of staff said the governor sent his congratulations for a project completed and well done.