Thursday, August 11, 2011
Steamboat Springs The Routt County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously this week to approve a gravel pit southwest of Hayden that would be well-situated to supply gravel to the oil and gas drilling pads that are expected to begin to pop up in far western Routt County in the coming years.
The Frentress Pit would be built on 9.9 acres about three miles from Hayden on Routt County Road 65. It is expected to produce 30 to 40 tons of gravel annually for as many as 10 years.
The pit’s official haul route is to the east via C.R. 65, which turns into Poplar Street in Hayden, then making a right turn to the east on U.S. Highway 40.
However, it was clear from the commissioners’ comments that they expect the pit to service the energy exploration industry in a sparsely populated area west of Hayden and south of U.S. 40.
“We’ve encouraged gravel pits that serve local areas, and (in this case) that demand is going to be with the oil and gas business,” Commissioner Doug Monger said.
County officials confirmed this week that although they have been in contact with one company preparing to bring forward a permit application for an oil and gas well, they don’t have any permit applications in the pipeline. Instead, they are deducing from the number of transactions involving subsurface mineral rights in the area that it is seen as ripe for wildcat drilling.
Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush said Tuesday that she is concerned about the precedent that could be set by authorizing Frentress operator Breeze Basin Resources to drive heavy gravel trucks on the portion of C.R. 65 that is a rural road. It has relatively few improvements and no county snow plowing in the winter. She said she would prefer to have new guidelines suited to the energy industry in place before giving Breeze Basin the go-ahead.
“It’s a minimal-maintenance road. We don’t allow a lot of things on minimal roads, and this is a new situation,” Mitsch Bush said. “What happens when Quicksilver (energy) comes in, then Shell comes in, then Exxon comes in. It’s going to cost the taxpayer God knows what, and they’re going to say, ‘But you let (Breeze Basin) do it.’”
The Routt County Planning Commission voted unanimously July 21 to recommend approval of the gravel pit but spent more time worrying about the portion of Poplar Street where gravel trucks would travel past Hayden Elementary School. Planning commissioners also expressed concern about the impact of 30 truck trips a day on the Poplar and U.S. 40 intersection.
Rick Domson, of Breeze Basin, told commissioners that a traffic study required by the Colorado Department of Transportation concluded that the gravel pit would cause an acceptable 7 percent increase in traffic through the intersection.
The commissioners asked Domson to work closely with Hayden Public School officials to ensure their safety concerns are met.
— To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com