EnCana’s 4-day Grass Mesa extension angers locals
Post Independent Staff
The Bureau of Land Management has denied EnCana’s application to access Grass Mesa through Dec. 21 this year, but the decision doesn’t sit well with some residents.
“It’s very disgruntling to me,” said Grass Mesa resident Garland Anderson.
Anderson and other Grass Mesa residents are steamed because the BLM did give EnCana Oil and Gas an extra four days to access the mesa; the company had asked for three weeks.
“It’s great they didn’t give them three weeks,” Anderson said. “But the extra four days sets a bad precedent.”
EnCana’s permit to cross BLM lands to access Grass Mesa ends on Dec. 1 each year, and resumes on April 30, said BLM natural resource specialist Jim Byers.
The restrictions are to protect deer, elk and other big game in their critical winter habitat in the Grass Mesa area south of Rifle.
In denying EnCana’s application for an extra three weeks of access, BLM Glenwood Springs Field Manager Jamie Connell wrote, “Granting as much as a 21-day extension on the use of the BLM access road will have an unacceptable detrimental impact on the wintering game by causing displacement and disrupting solitude ” conditions the timing limitation is designed to protect.”
Connell told EnCana she granted a four-day extension to allow the company to conduct completion operations on five pads it noted on its application.
EnCana spokesperson Cher Long said her company may appeal the local BLM office’s decision to the state office.
“This would avoid the disruption of having to move rigs and equipment off the Mesa and bring them back again to the same location next spring,” Long said in a prepared statement. “Finishing up remaining drilling and completion activities would also avoid inefficient production through the winter months.”
In July, EnCana said it planned to drill 29 wells on Grass Mesa through Oct. 31, and a total of 250 in the area south of Silt this year.
Anderson, who has lived on 80 acres on Grass Mesa for 10 years, said oil and gas exploration and production are scaring deer and elk away.
“The first year here, it was common for me to see a herd of 300 to 600 elk, and hundreds of deer, on my front yard 40,” Anderson said. “This year I’ve seen no elk, and about six deer. Each year, the numbers are getting smaller.”
Anderson said deer and elk migrate down to Grass Mesa each winter.
“Oil and gas exploration has really disrupted their migration,” Anderson said.
Anderson said the deer and elk don’t know they are supposed to go somewhere else during EnCana’s four-day extension.
“EnCana should stick to their deal,” he said.
Contact Lynn Burton: 945-8515, ext. 534
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