Rifle states official position on Roan | PostIndependent.com

Rifle states official position on Roan

Heidi Rice
Western Garfield County Staff

RIFLE ” The city is signing off on its official position for the Roan Management Plan this week, saying that it still does not condone drilling on the top of the plateau. But if it happens, the city favors a plan recently submitted by the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, with certain changes.

The Bureau of Land Management is taking comments from cooperating agencies on the management plan until Sept. 20.

“It is the city’s position that the area above the rim of the plateau should be reserved and managed for significant historical uses, which include recreation, hunting, livestock grazing, etc.,” council members wrote in a letter to Greg Goodenow, planning and environmental coordinator for the BLM.

In a poll of council members held at a special meeting last week, councilors were split 5-2 against drilling on the top of the plateau, but leaned toward the DNR plan over the five alternatives previously presented by the BLM.

The DNR plan suggests that drilling leases on the plateau be done in 2,500-acre increments, allowing one operator to drill and produce gas with the proceeds and costs of drilling being split by the lease holders. It would also limit drilling to the ridge tops of the plateau where there are existing roads and limit surface disturbance to 200 acres at a time ” with the operator required to reclaim the area before moving onto another ledge.

Yet Rifle also had some suggested changes to the DNR plan, including that drilling be phased in to accommodate wildlife grazing patterns.

“We feel the DNR plan has a much more appropriate stance regarding winter and summer range for the animal population,” Mayor Keith Lambert said.

Of the five alternatives presented by the BLM, the council most prefers Alternative 2, one of the more conservative plans.

The city also recommended that the BLM review and update its current leasing policy, and if a health or environmental concern is discovered in the future, the BLM have the ability to alter the leasing conditions.

“The city of Rifle is concerned that the BLM has not fully evaluated their commitment and responsibility to police activity that will result from oil/gas leasing within the Roan Plateau Planning Area,” the letter states.

Rifle also had the following suggestions in its recommendation for the management plan:

The entire upper plateau be leased simultaneously not to exceed the 2,500-acre pre-lease maximum.

Designating the entire top of the plateau as a singe undivided federal unit with one operator.

Less than 1 percent of total surface disturbance be allowed at any one time.

Development close to existing roads be encouraged and pipelines included within roadbeds (buried) where practical, and development activity be limited to no more than two consecutive sections in any one year.

Surface well pad spacing be no closer than 160 acres.

Drilling on top of the plateau require a Geographic Area Plan identifying the location of all well pads and supporting infrastructure facilities, including plans for mitigation measures for a reclamation plan.

After receiving comments from the cooperating agencies by the Sept. 20 deadline, final environmental analysis by the BLM will take place in early 2006, followed by a 30-day public protest period and 60 days for the governor’s consistency review.

A final record of decision by the BLM is expected sometime in the summer of 2006.

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