Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger discusses issues involved with Shell Oil during a joint meeting with the Moffat County Commissioners on Monday. The company filed for substantial water rights on the Yampa River west of Craig that could impact Routt and Moffat counties.

Photo by John F. Russell

Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger discusses issues involved with Shell Oil during a joint meeting with the Moffat County Commissioners on Monday. The company filed for substantial water rights on the Yampa River west of Craig that could impact Routt and Moffat counties.

Routt, Moffat commissioners discuss issues of joint concern

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Moffat County Commissioner Audrey Danner discusses Shell Oil's application for a water right on the Yampa River near Maybell with the other Moffat County Commissioners and the Routt County Commissioners, including Nancy Stahoviak.

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Moffat County Commissioner Tom Gray listens to a discussion on the Shell Oil application for a water right on the Yampa near Maybell. Gray was joined by the other Moffat County Commissioners, Routt County manager Tom Sullivan, shown in the background, and the Routt County Commissioners for the meeting.

Struggling to provide services to a growing population that works out of town, the Moffat County Board of Commissioners may be compelled to weigh in on the proposed Steamboat 700 annexation currently being reviewed by the city of Steamboat Springs.

The idea was discussed Monday in Steamboat at a joint meeting of the commissioners from Routt and Moffat counties. The two boards also discussed Shell Oil's recent application for substantial water rights from the Yampa River west of Craig and transportation issues.

Particularly in the realm of health and human services, the Moffat County Commissioners said serving as a bedroom community to a large segment of Steamboat Springs' workforce is taxing the county's bottom line.

"While our population is less than Routt County, we have a much greater demand on social services. (A lot of it has to do) with that stream of cars you see going east and coming back west at the end of the day," said Moffat County Commissioner Tom Gray, who acknowledged that the workers bring their paychecks home to Moffat County. "From the county budget side, it's not a big enough plus."

Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak suggested Moffat County weigh in on Steamboat 700, and the Moffat County Commissioners were receptive to the idea. The 508-acre development just west of Steamboat's city limits proposes about 2,000 homes with a substantial percentage targeted at workers with low to moderate incomes. If Moffat County ultimately decides to endorse the project, it would lend weight to Project Manager Danny Mulcahy's argument that if his development isn't approved, workers increasingly will continue to locate in outlying communities.

The Moffat County Commissioners said they plan to follow their land-use board's recommendation to formally oppose Shell Oil's water right application filed late last year, but Gray was skeptical it would do any good.

"I don't think there's a leg to stand on to say this isn't a valid use of the water," he said.

Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger, however, is skeptical of Shell's claim that it needs 375 cubic feet a second for future oil shale operations.

"I think it's highly questionable myself," Monger said. "If it is a speculative right, and we can prove it's a speculative right, it is harmful."

If Routt County also decides to log an opposition, the two counties may share legal counsel.

On the transportation front, the commissioners discussed the Rocky Mountain Rail Authority, which is conducting a feasibility study of high-speed passenger rail service along the Interstate 25 and I-70 corridors, including a spur to Steamboat and Craig. Also discussed were the prospects of creating a regional transportation authority to fund transportation projects across county lines.

At the end of meeting, the two boards agreed to hold similar joint meetings quarterly.

"I just think it's a great idea for neighboring county commissioners to meet when we don't have a burning issue," Routt County Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush said earlier in the day. When something like a wildfire across county lines does occur, "it works better if we've already been meeting regularly."

- To reach Brandon Gee, call 871-4210

or e-mail bgee@steamboatpilot.com

Comments

ybul 5 years, 10 months ago

The water issue that the article is not really about needs to be pondered. Estimates are that it will take 10 barrels of water for every barrel of oil. As the water is the states, should not the state think about wether this provides a real service to the state or not.

When thinking about this issue, the issue at hand is wether the water being proposed for energy development would better serve the people being used to grow rape seed, switchgrass, taking cattle manure and building holding ponds to grow algae in.

There are way too many potential negatives of the water issue to allow its development in this fashion and people in the area should really consider its opposition.

Another potential higher use for the water, is in conjunction with wind power. Using the wind power to provide electrolysis on the water, piping the compressed hydrogen to the front range to be burnt to generate power when needed as opposed to when the wind blows. The hydrogen when burnt turns to water and is available for use on the front range.

This serves multiple purposes, as opposed to Shell Oils idea of using the water to make their oil. The contaminated oil then needs to be held by and frozen layer in the earth for eternity so that it does not contaminate peoples well water supplies.

When looking at this potential use of water, it fails to meet any test of it being a benefit to society, in the long term, imo.

In addition the growth of switchgrass, rapeseed, or algae, they all would be zero or negative net producers of carbon. Whereas, oil shale will pull carbon out of the soil adding to the excess that is there today, which if it really adds to the global warming issue, then it should be another strike against the project, but please do not turn this into a Warming debate.

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flyguyrye 5 years, 10 months ago

I was advised by a geologist close to shell that current technologies to extract the oil shale require three barrels of energy to get one barrel of oil shale. Why then in a energy crisis would we use this approach. I believe oil shale is a definite alternative but the development needs to be at least sustainable before we allow Shell the right to the absolute most precious resource we have,water.

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