Water pipes top Grand Canyon's maintenance list

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 16, 2014 at 4:16 pm •  Published: May 16, 2014
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FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — A busted pipe that cut off a water supply for hikers at the Grand Canyon this week is the latest sign of aging infrastructure that could cost up to $200 million to replace.

Two pipelines that feed water from a spring deep in the canyon to storage tanks on the rim are the top priority for maintenance in the national park, said maintenance chief Tim Jarrell. Grand Canyon officials are stashing away a portion of entrance fees and doing engineering studies to determine how best to move forward.

"The Park Service has recognized that because of the magnitude of it, the implications and the cost to it, it's no longer just Grand Canyon's problem," Jarrell said. "It's the Park Service's problem, so we have everyone's ear."

The pipelines are the primary water source for park staff, visitors, hotel guests and residents at the Grand Canyon. A portion of a steel pipe that runs up to the North Rim burst Tuesday when a rock fell on it. Crews boarded a helicopter with supplies to fix it at a cost of about $25,000, Jarrell said.

Signs along trails let hikers know that water was unavailable near Supai Tunnel until the pipe was fixed Thursday. The next closest water filling stations were at the trailhead for the North Kaibab trail, about 2 miles away and at Roaring Springs, nearly 5 miles away.

The busted pipe didn't create a problem with the water supply on either the South Rim or the North Rim. Storage tanks there hold enough water to sustain the South Rim for 18 days and the North Rim for a month, Jarrell said.

Two major floods in the 1960s and 1990s damaged the pipes to the extent that Grand Canyon officials had to haul water in from nearby cities, Jarrell said.

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