Park City wants help maintaining mining-era tunnels, a key water source | ParkRecord.com

Park City wants help maintaining mining-era tunnels, a key water source

The Spiro Tunnel, located on the edge of Thaynes Canyon, is an important water source for Park City. City Hall is preparing to hire a firm to provide engineering and management services for the Spiro Tunnel and the Judge Tunnel, another source of municipal water. City Hall itself does not have a level of staffing that allows the municipal government to dedicate workers to the tunnel duties, a public utilities official says.
Tanzi Propst/Park Record

Park City has for decades relied at some level on mining-era tunnels for a portion of its water supply, tapping underground sources that have proven problematic over the years as old timber fails or the tracks leading into the tunnels are damaged.

Thirty percent of the water comes from either the Judge Tunnel, which is located in Empire Canyon, or the Spiro Tunnel in Thaynes Canyon.

United Park City Mines, the modern-day successor to the historic silver-mining industry, owns the Spiro Tunnel while the Wasatch County water provider Jordanelle Special Service District owns the Judge Tunnel. City Hall, though, currently is responsible for lots of the upkeep, relying on staffers and consultants to guard against timber failures, damaged tracks and similar sorts of issues that can arise in a historic mine tunnel.

The municipal government is preparing to hire a firm to provide engineering and management services for the two tunnels, a move that is designed to shift some of the duties from staffers to the outside help. Proposals are due on March 21. Officials anticipate reaching an agreement for a contract covering between three and five years.

City Hall has budgeted $250,000 annually, but the dollar figure that would be attached to an agreement is not yet known.

Clint McAffee, the public utilities director for City Hall, said the firm that is hired will be assigned duties like crafting a long-term maintenance program for the tunnels, including inspections, repairing tracks that are used to access the tunnels and replacing historic timber structures with ones made of steel. The firm will also be tasked with repairing minor cave-ins should they occur as well as consider improvements to the ventilation systems.

“There’s experts out there that can advise much better than staff can,” McAffee said, adding, “We’re looking at outside expertise.”

He said City Hall itself does not have a level of staffing that allows the municipal government to dedicate workers to the tunnel duties.

A City Hall posting seeking firms indicates “recent studies conducted by the City have found several areas that are in need of reconstruction for safe passage, maintenance and water collection.” McAffee said there is a danger of the tunnels collapsing someday without the continuing maintenance.

The Park City Council will be required to consider a contract with a firm based on the expected dollar value of an agreement.

The waterworks system has long challenged officials tasked with operations as a result of the mining-era infrastructure, further complicating what is seen as an elaborate system that must carry water to a wide range of elevations and treat the water for contaminants.