Road collapses in Brian Head after pond construction

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BRIAN HEAD, Utah - The mountain town of Brian Head is having a battle with Mother Nature over the creation of a pond.

Brian Head town manager Bret Howser said when they planned to build “Bristlecone Pond” in the middle of town, they planned for some unexpected challenges, but this one turned into a much bigger problem.

“Some of our staff started seeing some cracks in the road to the west of the pond project,” Howser said. “We noticed pretty quickly that it could become an issue.”

The road started to separate late last year. The town quickly established a detour and called in engineers.

The recommendation was to wait and see how the earth settled. By spring a section of Highway 143 had sunk more than 15 feet into the ground.

Engineers say it’s a phenomenon many have heard about, but rarely seen.

“They’ve got some drafts of a report that basically say they think that a sand layer that was something like 20 feet underneath the ground became super saturated and the pressure in that area just pushed right out of the ground and into the pond area,” Howser said.

The solution involves redirecting the water from summer runoff through various trenches. That will direct the water where the town wants it to go. Once that’s taken care of, the road will be rebuilt.

Howser said the town planned a contingency budget to cover the extra cost. The only thing affected is the timeline.

Business owners have faced some challenges, including severed phone lines. Georg Hartlmaier of Georg’s Ski Shop said the town has been good to work with, and they’re just glad it happened in the off season.

“We don’t want to go through a whole summer without the highway being open,” Hartlmaier said. “But overall I’m very confident still that this is going to be a great thing for Brian Head.”

Howser said they hope to have a temporary road in place within the next month. And that construction shouldn’t affect the town’s Fourth of July celebration.