The Routt County Planning Commission voted, 8-1, to approve Shell Oil's new Trout Creek well. It must still go to the Routt County Board of Commissioners on Nov. 20 for final consideration. Shell currently is drilling the Dawson Creek well, pictured above, south of Yampa Valley Regional Airport.

Photo by John F. Russell

The Routt County Planning Commission voted, 8-1, to approve Shell Oil's new Trout Creek well. It must still go to the Routt County Board of Commissioners on Nov. 20 for final consideration. Shell currently is drilling the Dawson Creek well, pictured above, south of Yampa Valley Regional Airport.

Trout Creek oil well wins Routt County Planning Commission nod

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The Routt County Planning Commission voted, 8-1, to approve Shell Oil's new Trout Creek well. It must still go to the Routt County Board of Commissioners on Nov. 20 for final consideration. Shell currently is drilling the Dawson Creek well, pictured above, south of Yampa Valley Regional Airport.

— The Routt County Planning Commission voted, 8-1, on Thursday night to recommend approval of Shell Oil’s new Trout Creek well on private land about eight to nine miles southwest of Steamboat Springs.

The commissioners included in their recommendation that Shell be required to build a subsurface water-quality monitoring well between the well’s bore hole and a half-dozen domestic water wells in the vicinity. In addition, Shell would be required to conduct baseline testing on those domestic wells as laid out in the county’s list of conditions that can be applied to all oil and gas wells.

The proposed well now moves on to the Routt County Board of Commissioners for final consideration Nov. 20. The permit application indicates that Shell does not intend to frack the Trout Creek well.

Planning Commission Chairman Jay Gallagher said the lone dissenting vote was cast by Planning Commission member Andy Benjamin, of Oak Creek. He wanted to acknowledge that the owners of the land where the well would be drilled, Jim and Betty Anne Wandell, want neither the oil well nor the testing well on their land. Gallagher added that the Planning Commission’s recommendation of the monitoring well is subject to the Wandells' approval.

Documents on file with the county reflect that on Oct. 31, Betty Anne Wandell submitted a handwritten letter to Routt County Planner Chris Brookshire confirming that they did want the water-quality monitoring well on their property, but it may have been based on a misunderstanding about the purpose of the well.

“Jim and I want the testing well on our property on 33B with the right to apply for agriculture use,” Wandell wrote.

A day later, Brookshire added her own handwritten note to the letter saying she had received a phone message from Betty Anne Wandell saying she wished to withdraw the original letter.

The Wandells did not respond to phone messages Friday.

Gallagher said Shell proposed to meet the requirements for protecting downgrade domestic water wells by testing half a dozen of the same. However, the commissioners took the position that that would not be sufficient because by the time any contaminants related from drilling showed up in a domestic well, the damage already would have been done.

Shell is in the process of drilling the Dawson Creek oil well a little to the west of the proposed Trout Creek well and south of Yampa Valley Regional Airport. It also has approval from the county to drill the Gant Hill well farther west in the southwest corner of the county.

The Trout Creek well pad would be situated off Routt County Road 33B about 6.5 miles by vehicle south of U.S. Highway 40 and 2.5 miles south of Saddle Mountain, according to documents on file with the county. The closest residence and water well are about 1,700 feet to the west, and the nearest property line is 461 feet to the south. The closest surface water is a stock pond a little less than a half mile to the east. Trout Creek itself is about a half mile west of the proposed well, which would be situated in an area of low rolling hills covered by grass.

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

Oil wells in Routt County

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