County Commissioners to discuss Roan Plateau EIS Monday
Garfield County Commissioners will consider the fine points of the Roan Plateau Environmental Impact Statement Monday as they work to craft an official comment letter to the BLM. In its final form, the EIS could declare a preferred alternative allowing natural gas development on top of the plateau, an idea that has drawn opposition from environmental groups, citizens and some local governments.The public is welcome to attend the EIS meeting, which begins at 1:15 p.m., but may or may not be invited to offer comments, said county senior planner Randy Russell. The commissioners will work through a list of bullet points that take issue with various technical aspects of the document, Russell said.Among them will be a comment that “reflects the time lag between early research and when the EIS came put, about one and a half to two years,” Russell said. “One thing we’ve noticed in our review is that the industry has heated up since then,” with increases in drilling activity, a larger workforce than originally planned for and more traffic impacts. “We will make comments on the need to update those contextual issues,” he said.Russell caught what he called “analytical typos” in the document, such as a misplaced decimal point in a traffic model that “overstated traffic impacts ten-fold. We’re pointing out that it’s not as bad as it could be.”Other comments in Russell’s bullet points for commissioner consideration propose a preferred alternative be included in the EIS that no new drilling be allowed on the plateau top and the fact that further analysis is needed about future development of oil shale in the Naval Oil Shale Reserve which takes up a portion of the Roan Plateau. Russell’s bullet points for commissioner consideration also include proposing that a preferred alternative be included in the EIS allowing no new drilling on the plateau top and the fact that further analysis is needed about future development of oil shale in the Naval Oil Shale Reserve, which takes up a portion of the Roan Plateau.Near and dear to the commissioners’ hearts are future impacts on county roads. Russell points out in his bullet points that the EIS “has no complete inventory of road segments and intersections likely to be impacted by specific drilling on the NOSR,” and discussions of road ownership and maintenance responsibilities take place prior to the final EIS.Areas of “highest concern,” as outlined by Russell, are visual and watershed impacts, especially impacts to the visible cliffs, the Parachute water supply and protection for trout streams on the plateau.Russell also pointed out “that we are not coming out for a specific alternative.” At the end of the public comment period, which was extended to April 11, the BLM will analyze the content and include its findings in the final EIS.”We expect that phase to take about two months,” Russell said.Once the final EIS is issued, the public will have another 30 days to make comments. And in a new process, BLM has included what it calls cooperating partners in the decision-making process. Parachute, Rifle, Garfield and Rio Blanco counties and the state Department of Natural Resources will join with BLM in making the final choice of the preferred alternative.Once the final EIS is issued, the public will have another 30 days to make comments. And in a new process, BLM has included what it calls cooperating partners in the decision-making process. Parachute, Rifle, Garfield and Rio Blanco counties and the state Department of Natural Resources will join with BLM in making the final choice of the preferred alternative.
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