GLENWOOD SPRINGS — One of Garfield County’s limits in restricting or prohibiting oil and gas traffic on Four Mile Road is that there’s no such thing as a “designated haul route,” per se, county commissioners said Monday.
“That’s an incorrect term,” Commissioner Mike Samson said during a brief discussion of the county’s powers when it comes to Four Mile Road restrictions, should the U.S. Forest Service allow energy companies to drill for natural gas in the disputed Thompson Divide area southwest of Glenwood Springs.
The county does maintain a county road map with so-called “preferred haul routes,” Samson noted.
But there’s nothing to prevent oil and gas companies from using any county road they want, as long as they stay within posted weight and oversize load limits, or apply for special county permits to exceed those limits, he and the other commissioners clarified.
Samson said he requested the matter be addressed Monday because of the calls he and the other commissioners have been fielding from constituents asking that they do more to prevent the use of Four Mile as a haul road.
Commissioners also restated their standing opposition to the proposed use of Four Mile by Houston-based SG Interests as a haul route, which it proposes as part of an application to drill on federal land leases in an area of remote Pitkin County five miles south of Sunlight Mountain Resort.
That opposition was stated in a pair of letters from the commissioners in late 2012, sent to both White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams and area Bureau of Land Management Field Manager Steve Bennett.
“We have stated several times that we don’t want heavy natural gas trucks running up Four Mile Road, and that we support the city in not wanting heavy natural gas trucks rolling through Glenwood Springs,” Samson said.
But, “It’s not Garfield County that is going to decide if there’s drilling up there,” he said in reference to the federal land agencies that will be making that decision.
Samson also said it’s partly the responsibility of neighboring counties to look at alternative routes should the drilling permits be approved.
“Only about 10 percent of that (Thompson Divide) area is even in Garfield County,” he said.
The vast majority of the 221,000 acres that constitutes the Thompson Divide is in Pitkin County, Mesa County and Gunnison County.
Garfield County Attorney Frank Hutfless concurred that Colorado statutes do not specifically grant counties the authority to designate certain roads as haul routes, or to limit such use.
Hutfless has advised the commissioners that the primary regulation of county road use is through weight and size limits. Four Mile Road has a posted weight limit of 80,000 pounds for a five-axle vehicle and 54,000 pounds for four axles.
“We can control the amount of loads per day, and the time of day,” Samson said. “But if we get too restrictive we’re going to have some other problems.”
Commissioner Tom Jankovsky also addressed criticism over the county’s plans to make $3 million worth of improvements in the so-called “dead man’s curve” section of Four Mile Road.
“That work is similar to what we’re doing on other roads around the county, and has nothing to do with oil and gas development,” Jankovsky said. “It has to do with safety issues on that road.”