Glenwood fears impacts of drilling trucks
Truck traffic from natural gas development, a common sight in western Garfield County, is headed to Glenwood Springs this year with an exploratory well that will be drilled above Four-Mile Park.City officials fear the in-town impacts of drilling traffic, especially if tentative plans for as many as 60 wells in the area of the Wolf Creek gas storage field go forward.”We have some concerns there,” Mayor Larry Emery said.City officials recently became aware of the traffic threat while meeting with Bureau of Land Management officials to discuss the role Glenwood Springs will play as a formal cooperating agency on the Roan Plateau plan.The BLM is preparing a management plan for the plateau, northwest of Rifle, and much of that plan will address drilling. But after their meeting with the BLM, Glenwood Springs officials are taking a growing interest in prospective drilling closer to home.The Wolf Creek area is on national forest land. But the BLM is in charge of issuing drilling permits on federal land, including national forests.EnCana Oil & Gas plans to drill an exploratory well in the Wolf Creek area this summer. That could be followed by four or five wells the following year, and more than 60 wells altogether if the initial drilling proves successful, said Larry Sandoval, the oil and gas supervisor for the White River National Forest.Emery said Four-Mile Road and Midland Avenue aren’t built to take the impact of truck traffic related to drilling. The city already has been pursuing ways of easing traffic congestion in that part of town.He said city officials have not yet discussed in detail their concerns about possible drilling traffic in Glenwood Springs.”It’s just now hit our radar screen,” he said.Just how much drilling could worsen Glenwood Springs’ traffic congestion depends on how many wells, and how many trips each well requires.”It’s a couple hundred vehicles, tractor-trailers, just to support this one exploratory well. I guess we can all do the math and start thinking about the impacts,” said Bill Westbrook, district ranger for the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District.But Sandoval said he thinks that estimate is high for the one well. And he believes it’s early to be talking about dealing with truck traffic for dozens of wells.”This is all very preliminary. We’re just now starting to deal with that, starting to talk with (EnCana),” he said.Although the BLM issues the drilling permits, the Forest Service has a say over surface impacts, including to roads and communities, because of truck traffic.He said if EnCana becomes interested in ramping up drilling in the Wolf Creek area, it probably would make sense for the Forest Service to change the truck access route to the Divide Creek area south of Silt.That would require improving four-wheel-drive roads in the forest, something that isn’t logical for only one well, he said.Diverting traffic to Divide Creek also could pose other problems.”Then you’re just transferring those impacts to another area, other folks,” Westbrook said.Said Sandoval, “It’s probably one of those things where somebody’s not going to be happy.”He said the Highway 82 corridor doesn’t appear to be a workable access route for a broader drilling program up Wolf Creek. Traffic in that corridor “is pretty insane as it is,” he said.The Wolf Creek area was drilled decades ago and is now used to store gas in depleted fields some 8,000 feet deep. Westbrook said the new well is targeting a shallower formation about 4,000 feet deep.Sandoval said EnCana is indicating that if the first well proves successful, it would like to drill perhaps four or five more next year “to see if this one is a fluke or not.”He said EnCana has indicated it may quit after one well, but he doubts it will. He thinks the company will drill four or five wells even if the first one doesn’t produce.But he said he still considers the whole endeavor highly speculative. EnCana has no plans to put the first well into production even if it is a success, he said. And how much more it drills in the Wolf Creek area may depend on whether it has bigger gas development priorities elsewhere.For now, the company has a permit to drill only one well.”I’m not going to get too excited until they get some indications from that one what they want to do next,” Sandoval said.”I think … all we can do right now is speculate.”Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. email@example.com
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