Butte County again lowers load limits on Wilson Cemetery Road near Newell

The Butte County Commission Tuesday implemented weight limits to Wilson Cemetery Road which is being damaged due to local gravel hauling. The damage pictured is from August 2019. Pioneer photo by Lacey Peterson

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BUTTE COUNTY — Wilson Cemetery Road, south of Newell, will again have weight limits implemented following the destruction of the roadway due to gravel hauling in the area.

For weeks last summer, Butte County dealt with damage being done to the roadway by trucks employed by Western Construction, Inc., based out of Rapid City, who are utilizing the road to haul gravel from a gravel pit.

The county insisted on having a haul road agreement with the pit’s operator, but the company was refusing to sign one until the county implemented an ordinance that required agreements.  

The county regularly employs haul road agreements for companies who use county roads to haul all types of material. The agreement protects the county by requiring, in most circumstances, the haulers to repair and maintain the road during the duration of the usage.

After the county pressured the company in late August, Western Construction relented and signed a limited-time agreement. That agreement has since expired.

In the meantime, however, to protect the integrity of the road in question, state law allowed the county to impose weight limits on a road due to excessive traffic and weighted loads traveling upon it.

And that is exactly what the county did. On August 20, 2019, the commission unanimously voted to put a 20-ton combination and 12-ton single weight limits on the approximately three-mile road.

But that was only temporary until the company signed the agreement.

Dwayne Heidrich, county highway superintendent, told the county Tuesday that the same issue is again plaguing the county roadway.

“We had some complaints again on Wilson Cemetery (Road) with Western Construction,” Heidrich said, adding that the most recent complainant was upset with the level of dust and the condition the road was in due to the overuse.

He said the highway department called Western Construction to rectify the situation but Heidrich said they placed the blame on the trucking company. When Western Construction refused to fix the road, Heidrich said he and his crew took care of it.

“For whatever reason, it’s like pulling teeth trying to get that Western Construction down here to take care of that road,” he said.

Heidrich said the construction company is hauling material out of the site with 32-axle “centipede” side dump trucks.

“When we get to get ahold of them to sign and agreement and get a blade out there and get a water truck out there, then they disappear,” Heidrich said. “And then they’ll be gone for a while.”

With four years remaining on Western Construction’s lease at the site, Commissioner Karrol Herman agreed that something needed to be done to protect the county road and residents.

“We need to really put some teeth in that (agreement) to get them to do something,” she said. “We need to do something because we keep threatening and threatening and they just keep doing whatever they want.”

Heidrich recommended that the county insist that the company sign a haul road agreement. Then, if Western Construction refuses to do so, the county could restrict the weight limit on the road.

“I don’t know what else to do,” he said.   

Commission Kim Richard agreed.

“It’s pretty simple I think,” he said, asking that the new agreement be reframed to say that as long as the pit is open, the company is responsible, regardless of the timeframe.    

The commission unanimously approved to place weight restriction signs on the Wilson Cemetery Road by Monday if the company continues to refuse to sign a haul road agreement and take responsibility for the road’s condition.

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