Castle Valley Comments
February 23, 2017

At the beginning of the monthly Castle Valley Town Council meeting, which was held Wednesday, Feb. 15, Dan Vink, district manager of Rocky Mountain Power, gave a presentation to those in attendance. The purpose of his discussion was to update the community of the utility’s plans to upgrade the electrical service during this upcoming year in Castle Valley. Vink said our electrical line serves 670 customers on the 125-mile line, which is the longest line in their system. Since 2013, the power company has invested $1.5 million and they will spend another $1 million during 2017 on the most troublesome 13-mile stretch from Pack Creek to the Porcupine Rim.

In acknowledging the numerous power outages during the past year, he said they were mostly caused by vandalism, broken cross-arms, birds, and falling trees. A major outage was caused when the Rattlesnake sub-station was vandalized late last year, causing the power to be disrupted for five hours and costing thousands of dollars to repair. In 2016, the utility installed 51 power poles to shorten some of the spans between poles to 500 feet, which will restrict the power lines from crossing each other during high winds and causing outages. They also improved access in some of the areas of rough terrain, a process that took a year to get permits from the various government agencies.

This year, the plan is to install another 50 power poles, install new cross-arms and continue working with the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service for more permits to create better access to the power lines in the Porcupine Rim area. The access work won’t begin until next September because they can’t disturb raptor nesting in the area of the access construction.

Some might remember that Rocky Mountain Power conducted a study in 2006 to install new power poles, run larger power lines and construct a substation in Castle Valley to improve the service to the area. The cost at the time would have been in excess of $30 million and it was determined to be not cost effective for the limited amount of customers on the line. Castle Valley is serviced by a three-phase line, which explains why some homes in the valley might not have power while other do during a time when only one phase goes down. That was the case late last December when one phase that serves the northeast area of Castle Valley went down because of an undetermined problem but the rest of the valley was unaware of an electrical outage.

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In other business during the town council meeting it was mentioned that gravel, which is being hauled from the Ida Gulch gravel pit on state Route 128, is being spread at certain locations along Shafer Lane. That street will eventually be upgraded to an all-weather emergency access route to the Castleton Road. The road goes through town, BLM and fire department property. The gravel pit is currently under a federal use contract between the BLM and Utah Department of Transportation and the town has permission to access the gravel from UDOT. After the two entities settle a new contract, the town will continue to work with UDOT for the use of the pit. The current section of road at the end of Shafer Lane, which is located on the BLM property, is too close to property owned by the DayStar Adventist Academy and will have to be realigned to create a 25-foot travel road easement.

Crews from UDOT have been replacing culverts along SR 128 (the River Road) this winter in preparation for a major resurfacing project later this spring. Town officials have met with UDOT officials to discuss the ramifications of the project and the effect on Castle Valley commuters during the paving process. The project, which will be asphalt paving and not a chip seal layer, will begin at U.S. 191 and will continue east to mile 20.3 east of Sorrel River Ranch this year and continue to Interstate 70 next year. The project will go out to bid soon and the paving is scheduled to begin May 1. The contractor will not be allowed to begin work before 7:30 a.m. and motorists could face up to, but no more than a 15-minute delay during the construction. Before construction begins, the contractor will meet with town and fire department officials as well as other county agencies to work out emergency access during the project.

The subject of the annual spring cleanup was also discussed. Last year, the town spent $1,600 for the annual event and voted to continue the tradition. Like last year, the first load will be free and a $20 fee will be assessed for each additional load. The council tentatively set April 8 for the cleanup day, depending on the availability of the other entities involved.

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In addition to the free Watershed Stewardship and Permaculture Workshop that is being sponsored by the Castle Valley Library this Saturday, the library is also hosting local resident Chris Michaud, fisheries biologist with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, next week. Michaud will be discussing the research and actions used by the DWR to manage endangered fishes in the Colorado River. This program will be Thursday, March 2 beginning at 7 p.m. at the library.

ByBy Ron Drake