Kane County road crews began repair work this week on Cottonwood Road, a major transportation artery through the Bureau of Land Management’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM) used by thousands of tourists and local residents each year.  Cottonwood Road runs for approximately 42 miles from Highway 89 in the south to Highway 12 in the north.  Kane County closed the road several months ago due to damage from winter storms.

The 800-foot damaged section of the road is located mid-way between Hwy 89 and Cannonville and according to Richard Madril, Resources Chief for GSENM, was caused when water diverted from an adjacent riparian area onto the road bed.

“Essentially, you have a healthy riparian area filled with cottonwoods and willows that captured and slowed the runoff, collecting silt and eventually filling in until the riparian area actually became higher than the road…and water flows from a high point to a lower point – the road,” said Madril.

Kane County officials and local GSENM managers and staff, including engineers from BLM’s Richfield and Salt Lake State Offices, met several times both on site and in Kanab to devise a repair plan that would provide an immediate fix for the road, as well as long term measures to help prevent the problem from happening in the future.

The initial repair work to get the road open and safe for travel is expected to take one to two weeks and involves taking material from the edge of the roadway that has built up over time from grading operations, the scree that eroded from the rock cliffs alongside the road, and using that material to raise the roadbed higher than the riparian area.

“The longer term preventative measures will require additional funding.  We, Kane County and the BLM, are looking to partner with other state and federal agencies to acquire the necessary funds,” said GSENM manager Rene Berkhoudt.  

“This is an excellent example of what can be accomplished when local governments and federal officials work together,” said Kane County Commissioner Dirk Clayson.