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RANGELY I On Tuesday, July 13 at the Rangely Town Board of Trustees meeting, Grand County (Utah) Commissioner Trisha Hedin spoke to encourage the Town’s participation in a call to action in opposition to the Book Cliffs Highway.
The Book Cliffs Highway is a $300-400 million dollar infrastructure proposal that aims to connect the Uintah Basin to I-70 near Cisco, Utah. It has been on and off the table since the 1980s when it was stated as necessary to assist in extractions transportation. More recently, it is being proposed by the Seven County Infrastructure Coalition as an “ease of tourism traffic” from Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area and Dinosaur National Monument to the Mighty 5 National Parks in Southeast Utah. Hedin stated, “We don’t need more tourism traffic, we’re good.” Another publication wrote that Moab is drowning in tourism. “This road will also divert tourism away from communities in Utah and Colorado that are working to increase tourism.” – Mary McGann, Chair Grand County Commission. Currently, traffic from the Uintah Basin has two routes to I-70. SR-191 through Utah or Colorado SR-139 from Rangely to Loma. The Book Cliffs highway is also claimed to save travelers in time yet is estimated only 27 minutes of travel in either direction. In 2019, the annual average daily traffic count through Mesa County/SR-139, was 680 and the truck traffic count was 110. These travelers pass through Rangely and purchase gas, food and may even stay the night.
While pass-through traffic is not the bulk of Rangely’s economy, it is a strong portion and an addition to the need for tourism to continue Rangely’s growth and sustainability. Currently and historically, Rangely has been supported by the extraction industry. The boom and bust oil economy creates challenges in affordable housing for oilfield workers and retaining valuable talent in the teaching, hospitality and small business fields. In 2019, the town employed 163 in the accommodation and food services industry. The population also holds a 12.3% poverty rate.
A Better City Economic Development Strategy phase 1 report highlights the common goal of the Rangely community is “a desire to expand tourism by leveraging the area’s expansive network of ATV trails.” “The Chamber [of Commerce] has been proactive on this subject and has applied for grants that would fund a campaign to enhance trail markings.” The Book Cliffs highway could be detrimental to current economic plans and the Town’s needs to continue investing in its values and gifts.
“The Book Cliffs region is widely known as a crown jewel of the Colorado Plateau, full of critical high-quality wildlife habitat, ancient rock art, and cliff dwellings, thousand-year-old trees, and spectacular scenery. Wildlife enthusiasts largely oppose this highway recognizing how much negative impact it will have on the fish, elk, deer, buffalo, mountain lions, and bears that occur there,” McGann also stated. Highway construction would require the use of eminent domain as part of the area is home to a private ranch whose owners also strongly oppose the highway. The SCIC continues to push this project despite its claimed commitment to fiscally conservative values and freedom from an overreaching government.
Commissioner Hedin offered several ways Rangely residents can join Grand County in protest of the proposal.
• Contact both the Governor of Colorado and the Governor of Utah.
• Contact your state representatives.
• Michael Bennet, Senator- https://www.bennet.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/write-to-michael
• John Hickenlooper, Senator- https://www.hickenlooper.senate.gov/
• Join the Rural Utah Project in opposition–https://ruralutahproject.org/work/
Contact the Seven County Infrastructure Coalition and ask to speak at their next public meeting on Aug. 20, 2021, https://scic-utah.org/.
By KATIE KING | Special to The Herald Times