May 18, 2017 - From staff reportsAs wet snow and rain continues to fall on Fremont County, snowpack in the high mountains is melting, causing problems on Wyoming Highway 28 over South Pass.
The highway remained open due to the work of Wyoming Department of Transportation maintenance crews, which cut through a pair of highway approaches Wednesday, allowing snow runoff waters to drain from a pair of old mine ponds.
WYDOT South Pass maintenance workers began noticing the rising water in the two ponds about a month ago.
Last week, the crew built sand berms on each side of the highway about 28 miles south of Lander.
On Wednesday morning, however, the rising pond water began seeping through the sand berms.
"All the ponds are linked together, and water from the ponds eventually ends up in Slate Creek and Rock Creek, which flow to the Sweetwater River," WYDOT South Pass maintenance foreman Mike Hitshew said. "The cuts we made in the highway approaches won't drain the ponds, but they will help to drop water levels near the highway. The moves we made today kept water from flowing across the highway."
Hitshew has worked on South Pass since June of 1987, and he believes this past winter is the heaviest snow year he's witnessed on the pass.
"I've seen worse winters, but the storms we had this winter dumped way more snow," he said. "Instead of 20-inch snows, we were seeing 30 inches. Instead of a foot of snow, we were seeing storms of 24, 20 and 18 inches, respectively. And it's all beginning to melt."
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