Drilling permit up for county action

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— Routt County commissioners are scheduled to act today on an application for a new oil and gas exploration well at a site east of Hayden.

At a meeting Nov. 16, the Routt County Planning Commission recommended approval of the application from Comet Ridge USA, an Australia-based energy development company. The application would allow for a permit to drill on a 600-acre site about seven miles east of Hayden and less than a mile north of U.S. Highway 40. The site is less than a mile from the Yampa River.

Commissioner Nancy Stahov-

iak said last month that the commissioners already have approved an agreement allowing Comet Ridge to begin work on a drilling pad at the site, with the condition that Comet Ridge pay the $5,250 cost of site reclamation should drilling not occur.

Stahoviak said the agreement does not guarantee approval of the permit. Commissioner Doug Monger said the agreement is subject to the county's extensive zoning and subdivision regulations, in addition to compliance with the Routt County Master Plan.

Before the Planning Com-

mission meeting, county planning staff prepared a report analyzing the application's compliance with county regulations and found compliance on nearly all fronts, including environmental impacts, road mitigation and land usage.

"This area is not mapped for critical wildlife concerns," the report states. "It is elk, sharptail grouse, mule deer and bald eagle winter range. It is also at the edge of sharptail grouse production area. The access area from U.S. 40 is mapped as a mule deer highway crossing. The Division of Wildlife has been contacted but staff has not received any comments."

The report also expresses concerns about mild traffic, noise and wildfire hazards during the drilling process, but finds no serious concerns related to the permit application, which is for a site about three-quarters of a mile from Wolf Creek and the Yampa River.

"The proposal shall not create any significant negative impact in surrounding areas," according to the report.

Should drilling occur, Comet Ridge will "submit evidence of insurance for a minimum of $1 million to cover any damages to public and private property," the report states.

County officials said last week that the drilling boom impacting much of Western Colorado has not yet come to Routt County.

"We've been getting two or three (drilling permits) a year, and we're continuing to see two or three," Monger said. "We haven't seen the impact that Garfield County or Rio Blanco County has."

Routt County Planner John Eastman echoed Monger's sentiment, saying that while Routt County is home to several dozen active oil and gas drilling permits, the county is not seeing the surge in oil and gas exploration that has spread rampantly across areas of Colorado and became highlighted in the political arena this fall.

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