Injection well might be coming to Battlement Mesa | PostIndependent.com

Injection well might be coming to Battlement Mesa

After hours hearing testimony and discussion from both sides, the Garfield County Planning Commission on Wednesday approved a zoning change in the Battlement Mesa residential development to allow injection wells.

While construction of any injection wells will still have to be approved by county commissioners, Wednesday's vote was a big step for Ursa Resources in expanding its operations within Battlement Mesa.

"Everything we're doing, we've done to mitigate the impact to the community," said Eric Schmela, president of Battlement Mesa Co. "Having an injection well will reduce significant impacts to the surface and will reduce truck traffic by 40 to 50 trucks a day."

In what was a heavily debated vote, planning commissioners concluded that an injection well is better for Battlement Mesa residents rather than increased truck traffic hauling produced water offsite multiple times per day.

"You've got to throw it up in the air," Matt Langhorst told his fellow commissioners. "Do I like it? No. Is it the better of the two evils? I don't know."

The vote had been scheduled for February, but the commission delayed action so Battlement Mesa Co. could alter its plan. Among the many changes included a proposed reduction in the rezoned area to 22.12 acres, down from 37 acres as was originally proposed, and revised recommendations from various departments and staff.

Days before the scheduled hearing in February, the planning staff recommended against the zoning change. That combined with similar recommendations from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Battlement Mesa Metro District presumably led Battlement Mesa Co. and Ursa to change the plan.

Among the biggest concerns with the original plan was the proposed injection well's proximity to local water supplies. Modifications to the proposal addressed those concerns and limited the rezoning area downstream and downgradient of the public water system facilities.

As part of its presentation, the planning staff showed updated comments from the organizations with the revisions in mind. After seeing the revised proposal, Battlement Mesa Metro District said it "reduces associated risk to Battlement Mesa' public water supply."

Several members of the public urged the commission not to move forward with the zoning change, including those with local community groups Battlement Concerned Citizens, Grand Valley Citizens Alliance and Western Colorado Congress.

"We're obviously really disappointed and don't think that a toxic waste disposal facility belongs in a residential area," said Doug Saxton with Battlement Concerned Citizens.

While the vote came out 5-2 in favor of the zoning change, commissioners Mike Sullivan and Greg McKennis had very different oppositions of the proposal.

"It seems like the short-term winning over the long-term," Sullivan said. "This is not in the best interest of our Garfield County residents."

McKennis, on the other hand, made it clear that he's not opposed to having injection wells, he just felt the zoning change was "premature" and wants to see the whole plan before approving of a major change to the Battlement Planned Unit Development.

The change now goes to Garfield County commissioners.