Grass Mesa resident questions vote favoring EnCana plan
RIFLE – Allegations of a biased ballot are being made in the wake of a vote by homeowners in favor of letting a natural gas developer drill in the winter on Grass Mesa.Residents recently approved a plan under which EnCana Oil & Gas (USA) would pay their homeowners association $500,000 that the company would save by speeding up drilling on Grass Mesa, south of Rifle.However, some opponents of the idea may protest the outcome, according to one of them, Janice Zielinski. She said a homeowners association letter about the ballot was biased in favor of the EnCana plan.”That isn’t right, not when it’s a ballot that’s going out. It should be the facts only, not what a few people think,” she said.Under EnCana’s plan, it hopes to dedicate two drilling rigs to the Grass Mesa area year-round, and complete its current drilling program there by 2010, two years earlier than planned. The cash it is offering homeowners may amount to about $375,000 after taxes, and is expected to be used for road maintenance.EnCana would need approval from the Bureau of Land Management to proceed with the plan, and a BLM spokesman has said that approval would occur only if the Colorado Division of Wildlife and homeowners support it. The DOW has voiced interest in the idea, under which EnCana would provide 8,000 acres of temporary winter wildlife refuge near Grass Mesa.EnCana spokesperson Wendy Wiedenbeck welcomed the results of the homeowners’ vote.”We’re pleased with the outcome and believe it provides a win-win solution,” she said.Megan Klatt, whose husband, Brian, is on the homeowners association board and works in the natural gas industry, said she didn’t vote on the issue. She said she didn’t have strong feelings either way and felt it was important to leave the decision to those who had stronger opinions about it.She said there is a drilling rig near her home, but EnCana has worked to reduce the noise levels associated with it. Klatt moved to the area about a year ago, knowing drilling was occurring there, but said she can understand how people living there before gas development started would be more upset about it.But she said EnCana’s drilling plan was approved by a large majority of residents, which leaves her wondering how much of a chance opponents have of successfully protesting the outcome.Zielinski conceded that the chance of a successful protest might be slim.”I bet you at this point it’s a done deal, unfortunately,” she said.Zielinski questions how likely elk are to use the alternative winter habitat that EnCana wants to designate for them. She also worries that EnCana may alter its proposal as time goes by, in keeping with what she believes is a history by the company of promising one thing and doing another.”They’ve never stuck to anything ever once before,” she said.EnCana has said that it can’t guarantee that its accelerated drilling schedule wouldn’t change, due to the possibility of encountering unforeseen drilling challenges.Zielinski said some members of the homeowners association board are too focused on the financial offer. She thinks Grass Mesa’s roads are in good shape and the homeowners don’t need the money.EnCana is supposed to maintain roads it uses. Klatt said homeowners’ fees were raised $200 last year to pay for maintenance of other roads, and it’s still not enough.”Our residents speed, it ruins the road and we don’t have the money to cover it,” she said.Contact Dennis Webb: email@example.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO
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