Commissioners award contract for study |

Commissioners award contract for study

Donna GrayPost Independent Staff

The County Commissioners awarded a $174,500 contract this week to URS Corp. of Denver to study the potential impacts of natural gas development on water resources in western Garfield County. According to the request for proposals prepared by the county, the hydrogeological characterization study will investigate ground and surface water south of Silt and Rifle, where much of the county’s gas exploration and production is occurring.In particular, the year-long study will examine water sources and their potential vulnerability to impact from natural gas development. It will also determine if there are unidentified areas where water has been impacted or has a potential to be impacted.As part of its contract with the county, URS will conduct public meetings and provide periodic progress reports. The county and URS will host an initial kick-off meeting this summer for anyone interested in the project. A final report will be presented at a public meeting and at a Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission public meeting.The study will be financed out of a $371,000 fine paid by EnCana for violations related to drilling operations in West Divide Creek south of Silt last year.URS will focus on the Wasatch Formation, where most water wells are drilled, and the surface water west of East Divide Creek: East, West and Middle Mamm and Dry creeks.Among the information URS will examine is any correlation between areas of gas wells with more than normal drilling or completion problems and geological features such as faults and fractures. It will also map areas of high nitrate, selenium, fluoride, methane, or other human-caused or natural contaminants. The analysis portion of the study will also attempt to “determine the vulnerability of surface and shallow ground water resources to oil and gas drilling and other human activities,” according to the request for proposals.Nine companies responded to the county’s request for proposals. On Monday, the county commissioners chose URS at the recommendation of an evaluation team consisting of county oil and gas auditor Doug Dennison; Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission environmental supervisor Debbie Baldwin; Geoff Thyne, professor at the Colorado School of Mines and a consultant to the county; and Orlyn Bell, representing the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance.

Despite concerns about the program she ran, city and tourism officials are praising the work of former tourism marketing director Lori Hogan.”I think Lori was fabulous for the community and for tourism. I think she’s very knowledgeable,” said Tom Jankovsky, general manager of Sunlight Mountain Resort.Hogan resigned from the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association May 10, as tourism industry and city officials were increasing their pressure on the chamber for accountability regarding its use of city tourism promotion funds. However, their issues with the contract don’t appear to extend to Hogan herself.Kjell Mitchell, general manager of the Hot Springs Lodge & Pool, said the pool had a good working relationship with Hogan.”I think she was doing a lot of mining of information out there to set some foundations to do a lot of things for the future,” Mitchell said.”I always thought Lori did good job,” Mayor Larry Emery said. “I thought she was very professional. She seemed very organized. She seemed to know what she was doing.”He noted that he can’t speak as closely as the chamber could about internal issues, such as how she worked with other employees there.Chamber chief executive officer Marianne Virgili has said Hogan left on good terms. Emery said he doesn’t know one way or the other, but believes that Hogan “technically did resign.” However, he said he found it interesting that she left the chamber immediately upon her resignation, rather than remaining on board long enough to prepare it for handling issues without her.”It seemed rather abrupt, so there may be more behind that than meets the eye,” Emery said.The chamber named staff member Janet Rippy as acting tourism marketing director, and Rippy worked for weeks to determine where this year’s tourism advertising campaign stood after Hogan’s departure.Virgili has said abrupt departures are standard in that line of work, in order to protect proprietary chamber and city marketing information.She also said Hogan had resigned to pursue other work in advertising, and the chamber hoped to do some work with her. Hogan has declined to comment in detail on her departure, but said this week she hasn’t decided what to do next, and whether it would involve advertising or tourism work.She also said Hogan had resigned to pursue other work in advertising, and the chamber hoped to do some work with her. Hogan has declined to comment in detail on her departure, but said this week she hasn’t decided what to do next, and whether it would involve advertising or tourism work. Dennis Webb

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