KONOLA: Who will stand up for Farmer Lumbardy? | PostIndependent.com

KONOLA: Who will stand up for Farmer Lumbardy?

Claudette Konola
Free Press Opinion Columnist

The public comment period on the Fram Whitewater drilling proposal closed last Friday. A lot of people took the time to read the Environmental Assessment (EA) and submit comments. This is democracy in action.

The leases have already been granted to Fram. The wells will be drilled unless financially the company is unable to do so, which is a possibility, given their financial condition. They always have the option of selling the leases to another company, which may have been their plan all along. The only role we citizens play is to encourage the BLM to place conditions on the proposal that protect what is important to us.

Citizens for Clean Air wants to be assured that we will be able to breathe. The Town of Palisade wants to be assured that the investment they have made into the Fruit and Wine Byway, which draws tourist to their community, is not destroyed by excessive truck traffic on C Road. Fruit growers want to be assured that the increased VOCs in the air won’t reduce the yields of their crops. And then there is the water.

I’ve heard from two individuals who are really concerned that drilling in Grand Junction’s watershed could be problematic. Although the perception is that the area proposed for drilling is nothing but a desert wasteland, Glen Miller, a retired geologist who measured the water resource during his long career with the USGS, told me that there is almost enough water there to fill another Blue Mesa Reservoir.

To Don Lumbardy, it is more personal. There is a proposed well right next to his property line where he produces “natural produce” and organic beef and grows the hay that feeds them. He said, “A portion of the natural flow of water that makes up my water rights comes from numerous springs arising at the bottom of Lockhard Draw just east of my property… What if directional drilling enters into the source of the underground springs?”

Farmer Lumbardy’s property has water rights dating to 1883. When he isn’t irrigating, his water goes to the City of Grand Junction per a “special agreement.” Now the city proposes to sell that water to Fram for their operations. Lumbardy won’t see any of the money from the sale of his water. Of course it isn’t money that he wants. He wants the water to stay as pure as it is so that he can continue his farming/ranching operation and enjoying the wildlife that visit the springs.

But it gets even worse for Farmer Lumbardy. “I was notified by Fram that they intended to drill on my land and that instead of putting the well pad on my property, they would drill under. The person … asked if I would lease the mineral rights that I own on the rest of my property. I told that person probably not. His response was: ‘We will probably take the gas or oil anyway.’”

Lumbardy goes on to say, “It is imperative to me and those who hold the values of stewardship of the land and natural habitat that none of the lifetime work of myself, my parents and those who came before us be placed in a potential state of peril. Fram is not a neighbor nor are they going to contribute more than a few temporary jobs. Their estimate of 8 million plus barrels of oil over a 20-year period will not repay or replace water that is becoming in short supply worldwide, let alone in this community.”

Finally, Lumbardy says, “My operation is small, yet I put clean vegetables and meat on the tables of many in the Grand Junction area. The response to our meeting at Whitewater from the oil and gas commission was that extreme positions were not the answer. I did not hear any extreme statements from anyone presenting information. However, if protecting the water that I need to grow clean healthy ‘grub’ for the public is extreme, perhaps I misunderstand the meaning of extreme.”

So, citizens of Grand Junction, I know you value private property rights. Why is it that you are so ready to sacrifice the private property rights and water of Farmer Lumbardy?

Claudette Konola presented an analysis of the Fram financial statements at the Whitewater meeting. She is an ex-oil and gas lender and can be reached at ckonola@optimum.net.

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