by Terri Winder
After working alongside his father and others on the Blanding Water Tunnel for six seasons, on Thursday, December 27, 1951, Kay Bradford lifted the heavy jack hammer pneumatic drill toward the south entry hard rock face and once again turned it on.
He was doing what had been done in the 4,300 feet of tunnel that stretched out behind him: drilling holes in which blasting powder would be placed. Only this time he hoped he was doing more; this day he was also attempting to connect with the 1,100 feet of tunnel that had been mined from the north entrance.
“When we broke through, I whooped and hollered and yelled,” Kay remembers. “That was one happy day!”
Life-giving water, that otherwise would have drained into the Colorado River, has been coursing through the water tunnel ever since.
Initially, the redirected water streamed along a natural drainage system, down Johnson Creek, and then was routed through an 8” metal pipe to Blanding’s Third Reservoir.
In the 1980’s, a 12” PVC pipe was laid alongside the 8” pipe. Over the last several years, the 8” pipe deteriorated enough it was requiring constant upkeep and so Blanding City contacted Hansen, Allen & Luce Inc. (HAL), an engineering firm that specifically works with cities on municipal water projects, about replacing it.
The man HAL chose to put on the job is Jason Bradford, a civil and environmental engineer — and grandson to Kay Bradford.
After yearly trips to Blanding, Jason’s family moved there when he was 15 years old and he graduated from San Juan High School in 1996.
During that time, at a unique family reunion, he was able to walk through the tunnel. Two things stick out in his memory: 1)- how the group stopped in the spot where the two tunnels were joined and listened as Kay Bradford told them the story of that day; and 2)- how frozen his feet were from sloshing through the cold water.
“From the time I was little, we would hear stories about the tunnel,” Jason recalls, “I could tell from an early age that it was a source of pride for my grandpa and grandma to have been involved in the tunnel project.”
Still, he couldn’t have imagined that someday he would also play a part in bringing tunnel water to Blanding.
“Our company started working with Blanding originally on a storm drain master plan project and as we started talking about doing some water projects for them, I was very excited about the possibility of being involved,” Jason says.
“Ever since June, I have been coming down to Blanding every other week for a day and I’ve been able to stay with my grandparents.
“Grandpa’s physical abilities have gone downhill quite a lot over the last few years (due to the effect of miner’s lungs). However, every time I come, he asks me questions about how the pipeline project is going and it’s obvious to me that he hasn’t forgotten a thing about his experience with the tunnel project.
“The mountain pipeline I designed and that was recently built physically picks up on the mountain at Johnson Creek, which is a few miles below the tunnel,” Jason adds.
“Though designing a pipeline isn’t anywhere near the same as building a tunnel through solid rock, I like to think that this is similar to the next Bradford generation picking up where the other left off. It indicates that each generation is responsible for picking up where the previous one left off, in order to provide a similar legacy for the next generation.”