Routt County commissioners to hear oil well request

Board to discuss proposed well near grouse habitat

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Past Event

Sunterra Oil and Gas special use permit hearing

  • Tuesday, February 8, 2011, 2 p.m.
  • Routt County Courthouse, 522 Lincoln Ave., Steamboat Springs
  • Not available

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— The Routt County Board of Commissioners will hear a request today for a permit to drill an exploratory oil and gas well on a portion of Wolf Mountain Ranch that is under a conservation easement with The Nature Conservancy.

County Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush said Monday the proposed well pad off Routt County Road 70, about six miles northeast of Hayden, is within six-tenths of a mile of a sensitive sage grouse lek.

The energy company, Sun­terra Oil and Gas LP, has agreed to suspend drilling from March 15 until July 30, the most sensitive time of the year for Columbian sharp tail grouse breeding and rearing.

“It’s frustrating. We try to do our homework on these conservation easements,” the Nature Conservancy’s Geoff Blakeslee said Monday. “We thought the chances of this happening were remote, but technology is changing and these are issues we are going to be faced with.”

The issue has risen in part because the subsurface mineral rights on this portion of Wolf Mountain are severed from the surface rights. The owners of Wolf Mountain have the ability to negotiate terms of the energy company’s access to the well pad but ultimately cannot stop them from drilling.

Blakeslee said Robert Wal­trip, controlling partner of Pirtlaw Partners, owners of the ranch, had assembled a strong team to work out the surface rights agreement with Sunterra.

“The landowner is committed to protecting the conservation values on the easement,” Blakeslee said.

The Sunterra request marks the third that has come before the commissioners since Oct­­ober.

The Routt County Planning Commission voted, 7-0, on Jan. 20, 2010, to approve the request of Sunterra for a special use permit to drill the well with conditions.

Brent Romick, representing Waltrip’s partnership, told the Planning Commission that the protection of the grouse lek is the single most important element of the surface agreements and described the work done to establish baseline data about the habits of the birds.

Planning Commissioner Donna Hellyer predicted Jan. 20 that the heavy use of C.R. 70 would have an impact on the habitat.

County Commissioner Nan­­cy Stahoviak said Monday she wants more specific language in any conditions of approval, if not a formal agreement with Sunterra detailing the requirement that the drilling outfit would be responsible for any damage to the county road beyond that requiring routine maintenance.

The Colorado Division of Wildlife has consulted closely on conditions needed to protect the grouse, which have lost a large percentage of their critical habitat throughout the region, Blakeslee said, and a biologist familiar to the conservancy will monitor activity on the site.

— To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or e-mail tross@SteamboatToday.com

Comments

kathy foos 3 years, 10 months ago

Since there are deaths and severe injurys to teens that live in Routt County in unsigned and unfenced oil facilitys,if the wells arent signed and fenced off in our county,make them do it or you are just no good at all and deserve to loose in the next election.It is setting up a dangerous (known) situation for more youths to be killed and mamed.What about the safety?If its not safe,the commissioners say O.K. "do it",the county will be the one to blame on the next explosion in an unsigned unfenced oil facility that everyone just lets kids climb around on.WHAT IS THE SAFETY PLAN!!!!

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trump_suit 3 years, 10 months ago

What exactly is a "conservation easement" and who owns those mineral rights? Seems to me that Wolf Mountain is trying to have it both ways by taking the taxpayers money with their conservation easement and also developing those mineral rights like they were a separate issue.

I say NO, let those easement lands sit the way they were intended to, undeveloped.

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John St Pierre 3 years, 10 months ago

I agree with Trump_suit.... take it a step further.... any monies paid to a landowner who has a conservation easment ,should at the minimum, pay 50% of those funds back into the Easement fund......

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Scott Wedel 3 years, 10 months ago

The mineral rights are owned by different people than own the surface rights (the land conservation). So it is not the land conservation people doing the drilling. If the land conservation owns 0% of the mineral rights then they will not receive any money from the drilling operations.

The land owner can only hope to mitigate the impact of the drilling operations on the property.

Drill, baby, drill.

Well, actually, those truly in favor of drilling have been trying to reduce the limited rights of the surface owner and the review of environmental impacts.

Drill, baby, drill.

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exduffer 3 years, 10 months ago

Read the article again people! Just because the words drilling, oil and gas are in the article does not mean you have to shut off your brain.

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