GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado - Garfield County Commissioner John Martin has for several years been opposed to using Four Mile Road as a haul route for natural gas drilling traffic headed up to Thompson Divide, he told the Post Independent on Tuesday.
Unfortunately, he said, "It's all been verbal," expressed during meetings or conversations with different interest groups concerned with gas drilling in the area.
But Martin's position was supported this week by two opponents of drilling in the Thompson Divide, who do not always see eye-to-eye with Martin on the issue.
Thompson Divide is a 221,500-acre swath of mostly public land that stretches from Sunlight Mountain Resort in the north to McClure Pass in the south.
The area has been a subject of controversy for two years between citizens hoping to keep drillers out of Thompson Divide. The issue peaked in October when Houston-based SG Interests (SGI) filed two applications for permits to drill within a few miles of Sunlight and tentatively named Four Mile Road as the haul route.
A top official with SGI told the Post Independent that he does not recall Martin warning him against using Four Mile Road.
"I don't know that anybody has told me, 'No, you can't use that road,'" said Robbie Guinn, vice president of land for SGI.
Guinn said the road has been used for logging operations, for construction at the Sunlight Mountain Resort ski area and for past natural-gas operations.
"So, it can be used by some industries, for some purposes, but not by other industries for other purposes?" Guinn asked. "I mean, what are the rules?"
That is not the point, Martin said.
"Who establishes the haul route?" Martin asked rhetorically. "Garfield County. Who establishes the weight limits on the [Sunlight] bridge, and Midland Avenue? The City of Glenwood Springs."
Martin said it is an annual duty of the board of county commissioners (BOCC) to set weight limits for county roads for all potential industrial traffic, "anything that requires overweight, oversized trailers."
Both the Sunlight bridge and the 27th Street roundabout, he said, are "pinch points" for industrial traffic and would be hard for oversized vehicles to negotiate.
A better haul route to reach the proposed gas wells in Thompson Divide, Martin said, would be from the East Divide Creek Road (County Road 313), which comes over the divide from the region south of Silt.
Those issues, he said, will be dealt with in due course as SGI's applications to drill work their way through the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the White River National Forest environmental assessment process.
Martin's recollection of his past positions, while unsupported by documentary evidence, has been backed up by several sources.
"John Martin has been consistent [and public] in stating that going through Glenwood Springs and using Four Mile Road is not acceptable," reported Zane Kessler, director of the Thompson Divide Coalition.
TDC board member Dorothea Farris, who has vocally opposed drilling in the Thompson Divide region, added, "It's not public record, but John [Martin] mentioned twice to me in conversations that the commissioners would not support the use of Four Mile for development access in the Thompson Divide."
Farris, too, mentioned that Martin seemed to favor the Divide Creek access route for drilling in Thompson Divide.
David Ludlam, director of the pro-industry lobbying group Western Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association, said he and Martin have never talked about access for the Thompson Divide gas leases.