County to spend $2 million to fix up Dry Hollow Road |

County to spend $2 million to fix up Dry Hollow Road

Dry Hollow Road is set to get a face lift of sorts this year thanks to a $1.5 million grant from the state Department of Local Affairs. The money comes through the department’s energy impact grants program, which targets areas affected by energy development.

For the people who live on the country road south of Silt, Dry Hollow is ground zero for natural gas drilling.

EnCana has drilled scores of wells in the area. Recently, Bill Barrett Corp., a longtime gas developer in the county which, dropped from the scene some years ago when it sold many of its holdings to Williams, is back drilling in Dry Hollow as well.

All the drilling activity, with its attendant truck traffic up and down Dry Hollow Road, has created friction between homeowners and industry. It’s also resulted in scores of accidents, at least one of which was fatal.

Around Halloween in 2001, Brandy Willhite was killed on Dry Hollow Road in a head-on collision with an SUV driven by a surveyor for an oil and gas company.

In July of this year, a truck carrying condensate ” waste product from gas drilling containing petroleum byproducts ” overturned on Dry Hollow Road about seven miles south of Silt. The truck spilled 85 barrels of condensate into the ditch, and the material came within 500 feet of a stream and a shallow water well.

County road and bridge director Marv Stephens said the main focus of work on the road will be laying a two-inch asphalt mat down as far as the money will take it.

The county is also kicking in $500,000 of its own toward the repairs.

“We’ll try to go as far as we can,” Stephens said. The distance will depend on the price of asphalt this spring when the work is bid out.

Stephens said the work should begin in June. He’s also hoping to enlist some financial help from EnCana and Barrett to add another two inches of asphalt, which would better accommodate truck traffic.

With four inches in place, the county could rescind its “frost law,” he said.

Because of the heavy truck traffic during a wet spring and the freeze-thaw cycle that kicks in about that time, Stephens said he has imposed weight restrictions on industry trucks using the road to counter further damage until it dries out. The law has been in effect up to six weeks during especially wet springs, he said.

“We’re trying to use a little leverage (with the natural gas companies). The taxpayers deserve this,” he said.

In addition to the resurfacing, the county will also straighten out the curve where Willhite died in 2001.

During county focus group meetings held in the fall of last year, residents expressed concern over all county roads, saying county government needs to bring all roads up to its own standards. Roads used by oil and gas companies and contractors, such as the Dry Hollow Road, should be brought up to a heavy hauling standard. Residents also said oil and gas companies should also be required to pay for half the cost of maintaining those roads.

However, Stephens said the cost of upgrading the county’s “farm to market” roads is prohibitive, between $500,000 and $1 million per mile.

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