Energy exploration possible in Steamboat city limits
January 18, 2012
Steamboat Springs — Editor’s note: The map of potential drill areas has been updated for accuracy.
Steamboat Springs is jumping on the oil and gas regulation bandwagon.
The city, like Routt County, soon will work on developing its own regulations specific to oil and gas development. The City Council unanimously and without discussion Tuesday approved giving city staff the go-ahead to begin drafting regulations regarding potential energy exploration within city limits.
City Attorney Tony Lettunich presented an update to City Council members about local oil and gas issues. The county has been working to draft revised conditions for all oil and gas permit applications. The work is being done because of the growing interest in the region and its Niobrara Shale layer. Quicksilver Resources reported recently that its well on Wolf Mountain in Routt County was producing 500 barrels of sweet crude oil per day.
"It's hard to anticipate exactly what will happen, but the hope is we won't be in the crosshairs of drilling," Lettunich said Tuesday.
Lettunich told the City Council that Steamboat has limited regulatory authority as long as those rules don't prohibit oil and gas exploration. He said local regulations also can't conflict with those from the state.
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State setback provisions require 350 feet between drilling operations and buildings, schools, jails and related structures in high-density areas, Lettunich said. He said the same setback existed for other designated areas, such as parks. For the sake of the presentation, he said both setbacks were assumed.
Lettunich explained that after applying those setback provisions, there still was the potential for oil and gas exploration in several areas of the city. They include the areas directly north, south and west of Steamboat Springs Airport; northwest of the Steamboat Springs Cemetery; north of Colorado Mountain College's Alpine Campus; west and south of Howelsen Hill; north of Steamboat Boulevard; north of Burgess Creek Road; and between Ski Trail Lane and Laurel Lane west of Steamboat Ski Area.
In addition to the state setback provisions for high-density areas and designated outdoor activity areas, Lettunich said there were setbacks up to 2,600 feet from public water systems, such as Fish Creek Reservoir and the infiltration galleries to the Yampa River.
He added that the city's watershed protection ordinance, which the City Council adopted in 2007, requires a permit in anticipation of mining or drilling near public water supplies.
Lettunich suggested moving forward with a city regulatory system similar to the county's, and the City Council agreed. He said Planning Director Tyler Gibbs has been in contact with the county about drafting similar regulations.
"They have suggested that it might be good for the city to adopt a permitting plan and conditions similar to those the county is working on so there would a uniformity of regulatory scheme in this area," Lettunich said.
Gibbs said Wednesday that there's no specific timeline for drafting city oil and gas regulations. But he said the Planning and Public Works departments would be working with city attorneys to create regulations similar to the county's that don't duplicate what the state already requires.
"The question will be, 'Is there something important to the city that isn't addressed by those entities that the city should do?'" Gibbs said. "I think we'll get those together fairly promptly."
He said any regulations would have to be approved by the City Council.
■ City Council member Scott Myller asked whether city staff could pursue extending the Yampa River Core Trail west of Steamboat. Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Director Chris Wilson said staff would start meeting with residents about whether they'd be interested in selling property to the city for right of way needed for the trail extension.
"I would let people know that we're just looking at routes and we'd like their support," he said.
City Council member Cari Hermacinski added that the city wouldn't take eminent domain action to acquire property.
■ Kim Weber, the city's budget and tax manager, has been promoted to finance director as part of a reorganization of city departments. The reorganization was a strategic initiative that will save the city more than $53,000 next year, according to city officials.
■ Bike skills park planner Blair Seymour told the City Council that the Directional Development Foundation, the group proposing to build the bike park on the Bear River Parcel, had $14,000 to design, construct and maintain it for a year. Seymour added that cash and in-kind contributions from Steamboat Ski & Bike Kare and Ski Haus would provide maintenance at the park for beginner and intermediate riders for an estimated six to 10 years.
The City Council previously had asked to see financial data before approving a modification to the Bear River Parcel to add the bike park as a permitted use there.
To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com