National forest drilling plan approved near Silt
SILT, Colorado – Officials with the White River National Forest have signed off on a drilling plan that could allow a company to put six well pads on national forest lands about 14.5 miles south of Silt.Acting Forest Supervisor Mary Morgan signed a decision of notice last Friday finding that there was no significant impact for the Plains Exploration and Production Hell’s Gulch North, Phase 2 project, which would include up to 45 wells, six well pads and about 6 miles of new access roads in the national forest.The location of the proposed drilling area lies primarily on the ridge above Bear Gulch, a tributary of Alkali Creek watershed south of Silt in Mesa County, according to a U.S. Forest Service environmental assessment of the project. The nearest road is Forest Service Road 270, which is accessed by Garfield County Road 342.If the first well is able to produce natural gas, several other projects would be permitted for a long-term production of the wells, according to the forest service.Those projects would include six miles of 6-inch diameter gas pipeline, about six miles of 4-inch diameter produced water pipeline, 45 gas meters, 13 dehydrators and up to 45 400-barrel storage tanks for produced water.The original company behind the drilling plan was Laramie Energy LLC, according to the environmental assessment. But in May 2007, while the environmental assessment was underway, the federal mineral lease for the drilling plan was transferred to Plains Exploration and Production Company.The Bureau of Land Management will review the environmental assessment before the agency approves Plains’ applications of permits to drill for the area.The Forest Service is requiring Plains to follow best management practices, and the mineral lease also has requirements, like no-surface occupancy stipulations. That means gas companies would have to directionally drill from other areas to extract the natural gas to minimize surface disturbances. However, exceptions can be made.All the lands within the lease are subject to a big-game winter range timing stipulation that precludes drilling and construction activities between Dec. 1 and April 30, but allows other normal maintenance and operations, according to the assessment. If the operator proposes a waiver or an exception to the big-game timing restriction, additional environmental studies would have to be conducted.The White River National Forest will conduct an administrative review of the decision and anyone wishing to appeal the decision must deliver documents to the USDA Forest Service, Region 2, Attn: Appeal Deciding Officer, PO Box 25127, Lakewood, CO 80225. Electronic appeals may also be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. All electronic appeals must be filed in a format such as an e-mail message, plain text (.txt), rich text format (.rtf), Adobe (.pdf), or Word (.doc).All appeals must be filed within 45 days of May 7. If no appeals are filed within the 45-day time frame, implementation of the decision may occur on, but not before, five business days from the close of the appeal period. However, if appeals are filed, implementation of the project would have to occur on but not before the 15th business day following the date of the last appeal disposition.
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State department of transportation crews are well on their way to clearing Highway 82 to Independence Pass, which should open on schedule May 27 at noon.