Our View: Increased monitoring is step in right direction

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Editorial Board, February to May 2012

  • Scott Stanford, general manager
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Karen Massey, community representative
  • Jeff Swoyer, community representative

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Increasing the number of water quality monitoring sites along the Yampa River is a prudent step for local governments to take, particularly in the wake of increased energy development interests in Routt County.

Five local agencies have signed off on their financial support to increase the number of monitoring sites along the Yampa River to six. There currently only is one site — the Yampa River at Fifth Street in downtown Steamboat Springs — where water quality has been regularly monitored.

That changes this month, when samples will be taken from a half dozen points along the river and analyzed for chemical content, nutrients, E. coli and alkalinity, among other properties. The new monitoring sites include upstream of Stagecoach Reservoir; at the Chuck Lewis State Wildlife Area; at Milner; at the confluence of the Elk and Yampa rivers; and downstream from Hayden.

We agree with Routt County Department of Environmental Health Director Mike Zopf that the existing water quality monitoring effort wasn’t sufficient.

“The basic premise is that you cannot manage what you don’t measure,” Zopf said this week. “We felt it was wholly inadequate to have one station to monitor roughly 1,700 square miles of the Upper Yampa River Basin.”

Efforts to increase monitoring sites along the Yampa have been discussed for at least the past decade. It’s now possible thanks to an $18,250 project match from the U.S. Geological Survey and approximately $32,000 from local governments including the city of Steamboat Springs, Routt County, the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District, the Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District and the Morrison Creek Water and Sanitation District.

The timing of the monitoring expansion mostly is coincidental as it relates to increasing energy exploration activities in Routt County. But given the oil and gas plays taking place here, the timing is right. Improved and expanded water data collection will provide protection for industry and our communities. The monitoring will establish baselines to better determine how, and potentially why, our water quality might change throughout time. And that fact will remain true with or without oil and gas exploration.

There is no natural resource more important to our communities than clean water. A better monitoring program for ensuring the safety of that water is a no-brainer. Kudos to the local government agencies that have provided funding to make the expanded monitoring program a reality.

Comments

Steve Lewis 2 years, 3 months ago

Dear Task Force, I live in Routt County. We are next to Moffat County. Our economies are very different. Regulations that force Routt and Moffat Counties to the same choices on oil and gas development are unfair to the constituents of Routt County. Routt County deserves the ability to protect itself as it sees fit, and should be allowed stricter regulation of oil and gas development. Please do not preempt our right to local control.

I am also writing to respond to comments made here in Routt County by the directors of COGCC and CDPHE. Both indicated a very low ability to monitor the thousands of wells in Colorado, and described a high tolerance of polluting incidents being met with little or no penalties. In effect we are applying an honor policy to the industry that profits from pollution. Oversight of this industry is obviously insufficient to protect the citizens of Colorado. The scale of this deficiency is staggering and growing worse. State records support this fact. Please increase the contribution of the industry to funding its oversight and remedy these shortcomings.

Finally, the best management practices are not required in Colorado. Why not? Flaring fuel gases into the atmosphere is wrong. Water quality monitoring wells should be mandatory and should be monitored annually through and 5 years beyond the life of a well. These measures cost money, but they are still the correct measures for the State of Colorado. If not, your task force has some explaining to do to our grandkids.

Thank you, Steve Lewis

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kathy foos 2 years, 3 months ago

I don't understand why they are here at all.They don't even pay tax's .Sure everyone be happy that a business jeopardizes our water ,air ,property values and doesn't pay a tax.It is messed up.Don't approve another well,you don't even know how this fracking development will work out on the so called " conserved" land's.Now another one.Stupid.It makes a lot of people uncomfortable to say the least, sort of like having a fox in the hen house.Actually a surprising thing that our county leaders would embrace this fracking .So worried about every little detail how this county is run,then they turn loose hell on everyone.I feel so sorry for the people concerned about property values,maybe Hayden should offically join Moffat County they don't seem to care about anyone else in the valley .They don't get tourist's industry,why should they care?Now gambling is proposed also?Ha.What kind of place is our valley turning into anyway?Now everyone must keep going to meeting's about these permits for an industry that just uses our resources and away they go. Tax free.It is WRONG.

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