Path closed by repairs on clogged water pipe
By Mark Huffman, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
Date: December 27, 2012
Portions of the pathway near Jackson Hole Middle School will be closed the rest of the winter because of flooding and thirsty cows.
The digging along Middle School Road aims to stop water from backing up into the Blair Apartments parking lot and revive the flow in what’s called the “Winter Ditch.” The water, sometimes in an open ditch, in other spots in a buried pipe, is irrigation water on its way to the Jackson Hole Hereford Ranch, about a quarter mile to the south.
“Normally we wouldn’t have chosen Christmas week to do the work,” said Sean O’Malley, Teton County engineer. “Our first choice would have been to do everything about July 15.
“But there has been some flooding, and the amount of water reaching the ranch to water the cattle was diminishing.”
“There have historically been some flooding problems on the pathway, with water bubbling up through the manhole covers,” said Larry Pardee, director of the town of Jackson Public Works Department. But, he said, the situation worsened last week, and “the ranchers were not receiving their full allocation of water, and they asked that we open sections of the pipe to get more water to their cattle.”
Water where the digging is going on, adjacent to the Jackson Community Garden, flows through an 18-inch plastic pipe. Flow has been obstructed by willow roots and debris, now worsened by winter freezing. Some attempts to fix the problem without excavation were attempted, but didn’t solve the problem, O’Malley said.
Though the Hereford Ranch also has water rights in Flat Creek, its reduced flow in winter makes the Winter Ditch a vital water source during the cold months. And because the water rights and the ditch predate the pathway and other improvements, the town and county are on the hook to keep the water flowing and to pay the bill.
O’Malley estimated the immediate cost of getting the Winter Ditch going will approach $15,000. That doesn’t include the cost of replacing the pipe — probably with a 24-inch concrete tube — and rebuilding the pathway: “To restore the pathway,” O’Malley said, “is a lot more.”
“After we get in there and rip it up, we’ll close it” O’Malley said, “And next spring we’ll dress it up and put the pathway back in ... but we won’t be able to restore the pathway until things dry out.”
O’Malley said crews will find some way to let pedestrians and skiers get around the closed section of path.