County, city to coordinate on keeping some streets from being gas industry haul routes
If Garfield County and the city of Glenwood Springs want to make the case that Four Mile Road and certain city streets should not be used as a haul route for oil and gas leases in the Thompson Divide area, they’ll need to work together to present that argument.
The county remains on record that it does not want to see Four Mile, also known as County Road 117, used as a haul route for gas well development, as requested by at least one of the energy companies holding suspended leases in the area.
“We will probably make a similar statement about (Thompson Creek Road) out of Carbondale,” County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said during a joint meeting between county commissioners and Glenwood Springs City Council last week.
The county is participating as a cooperating agency in the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s environmental review of 65 existing leases on the White River National Forest straddling Garfield, Mesa and Pitkin counties.
That review includes about two dozen leases on the easternmost end of that study area within the so-called Thompson Divide south of Glenwood Springs, where various interests are trying to prevent or limit oil and gas development.
The city of Glenwood Springs has joined in that opposition, primarily because of concerns about the potential for industry-related traffic using Midland Avenue, the 27th Street bridge and possibly other city streets.
In order to make that argument, though, Jankovsky urged the city and county to work together to identify specific deficiencies and safety concerns in support of their case that the Four Mile route is not suitable for access. That information can then be included as part of the BLM’s formal Environmental Impact Statement.
Otherwise, use of the route for access to the leases could be legally challenged, should the federal review allow those leases to be developed.
“We have looked at the load limits on our roads and how that would be impacted,” Jankovsky said. “At the same time, we do have these same roads being used by logging trucks.”
Other, more sporadic heavy truck traffic is also common along the Midland and Four Mile corridor. So, part of the argument would need to relate to volumes and frequency associated with getting to and from natural gas wells, he and other county officials urged.
“We can’t discriminate against individual types of haulers,” County Attorney Frank Hutfless said. “But we can focus on repeated use of the road.”
The 1993 U.S. Forest Service EIS under which the leases were sold more than 10 years ago identified Four Mile as one access into the area. That means an alternative access would need to be provided if the leases go forward, he said.
In that event, Garfield County has suggested extending access into the area from the west via East Divide Creek Road, which is already a designated industry haul route.
City Councilman Todd Leahy expressed concerns that, if the city proceeds to upgrade Midland Avenue and the 27th Street bridge, or if the South Bridge is built as proposed, it could then be viewed as a viable haul route.
That can be addressed in the design, similar to the section of Midland Avenue from 27th Street north where large trucks are prohibited due to weight limits, said Terri Partch, the city’s engineer.
Councilman Ted Edmonds said it’s time for the city to review its current limits on heavy truck traffic, including weight and width limits and hours of operation, on all city streets, not just Midland.
Commissioner Jankovsky also noted that the BLM’s evaluation of the 65 leases is a little different, in that it may view the Thompson Divide-area leases separately from the other leases that are being reviewed.
“We have discussed that there may be groups of leases that can be grouped together for analysis for some resources because they share common conditions,” BLM spokeswoman Courtney Whiteman said. “However, the BLM has not reviewed all scoping comments or decided on an analysis yet, so no decision on how to group leases has been made.”
The BLM expects to release its scoping report that’s part of the EIS process in late January, she said.
“After the scoping report, the BLM will focus on developing a draft EIS for public release fall 2015,” Whiteman said.
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Former Carbondale trustee Katrina Byars said she wants to bring a voice of environmental sustainability to the commission, and believes her opponent has served long enough.